Eat More Beaver

Missourians have a healthy appetite for wild game meat. Some say raccoon tastes better than roast beef.

For the third course, Forgione serves sauerbraten-style raccoon, having soaked the meat overnight in a mixture of apple cider and apple-cider vinegar. The marinating of wild game is a time-honored technique to remove the gamey flavor from the meat. In this case it worked to marginal success. Served on a bed of thick noodles, the raccoon is a fibrous, dark meat that might best be compared to beef brisket.

Still, the remnants of the meat's wild taste is too much for our panel of critics. Even Forgione admits that the pugnacity of the raccoon is beyond his liking.

"I don't know if I would eat raccoon again," he confesses. "I'm sure there are those out there who probably cover the meat with some horrible barbecue sauce so all you're tasting is the sauce. I was trying to give you an idea of what the flavor tasted like."

Wood-roasted leg of beaver is a hit with our 
taste-testing brigade.
Jennifer Silverberg
Wood-roasted leg of beaver is a hit with our taste-testing brigade.

Like any good chef, Forgione saves the best for last. His wood-roasted leg of beaver is nothing short of sumptuous. An incredibly mild meat, the beaver leg might pass as roast beef to the unsuspecting diner. The final course, pan-roasted mignon of beaver, is even more succulent and comes accompanied with roasted parsnip purée, Brussels sprouts and wild huckleberry.

At the end of the meal, our host takes a seat at the table and readily admits he's outdone himself. Traditional recipes for this type of meat do not include such garnishments as parsnip purée and gingersnap crumbs.

"I wanted to have a little fun with this," says Forgione. "Back when this food was most popular, there weren't gourmet meals. It was about how to get the healthiest, heartiest meal you could for the least amount of money. Really just whatever you caught, you threw in the pot, be it squirrels, raccoon, beaver, whatever."

Today attitudes are different. Even if there weren't the regulations prohibiting him from serving the wild game to his customers, Forgione doubts he'd put it on the menu.

"From an adventurous point of view, I think people should try it. But I seriously doubt there'd be enough demand to have it on a menu. Besides, I think anything that ends in the word 'rat' is sort of hard for most people to swallow."

Roast Beaver
One 8-10 lb. beaver
bread crumbs
salt and pepper
1 tsp. thyme and rosemary
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup currant jelly

Stuff the beaver and salt and pepper it all over. Place beaver in uncovered roasting pan and bake for 15 minutes in 450 degree oven. Add wine, water, jelly and herbs. Cover and continue roasting at 325 degrees for 3.5 hours. As the beaver bakes, skin the fat from time to time.
from The L.L. Bean Game & Fish Cookbook by Cameron and Jones

Raccoon Roast
1 raccoon, including liver
bouquet of parsley, chopped
2 onions, sliced
sprig of thyme and rosemary
2 tbsp. butter

Wash carcass with hot water and lemon juice. Slit along the belly and remove intestines. Sautee parsley, onions and liver in butter. Stuff contents into carcass and roast for two hours, basting frequently with butter or bacon fat. Salt and pepper to taste.
from Fowl and Game Cookery by James Beard

Muskrat in Cream
2 young muskrat
1/2 pint cream
cooking oil
juice of two lemons
salt and pepper

Cut the dressed muskrat into serving-size pieces. Sprinkle with lemon and refrigerate overnight. Rinse the meat and sprinkle salt and pepper. Cover with flour and brown the meat in the skillet. Transfer to casserole dish, add cream and bake for 25 minutes.
from Complete Fish & Game Cookbook by A.D. Livingston

Stewed Possum
1 young, fat opossum
8 sweet potatoes
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. sugar

Wash possum thoroughly. Freeze overnight. Boil peeled potatoes with sugar, butter and salt. Stew the possum until tender in a tightly covered pan. Arrange the taters around the possum, sprinkle with thyme or marjoram, or pepper, and brown in the oven. Baste often with the drippings.
from North Carolina State Wild Game Recipes

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