Saturday, December 14, 2013

Baked Opossum

When I visited Anshu Pathak, the proprietor of Exotic Meat Market, the other day I picked up an opossum from him. Anshu obtains his opossum from a trapper in the eastern U.S. It came shrink wrapped in plastic, skinned, gutted, sans tail and head, but with the two hind feet on for identification purposes. The hind feet have a distinctive opposable digit without a claw. Opossums are kind of ugly creatures, with hair like Phyllis Diller, long snouts with nasty sharp teeth, and long naked prehensile tails that make them look like big rats . I think it is the latter that makes most people reel in disgust at just the thought of eating possum meat. 
This is an opossum we had on our back porch years ago eating cat food out of our cat dish. 
Shrink-wrapped opossum
Opossum spread-eagled.

Turned over.
On the side.
Opposable toes.
As an example, I found a fun recipe for "possum tartare" (raw opossum). You "drive around for a while in your truck [looking for one until]...SCCRRRREEEEEECCHHHH!!...SPLAT..." That's how you find and kill one. After skinning and cleaning, "sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic. Some folks also like onion. Run over it one more time [with the truck] to mix the spices thoroughly. Contact your mental health professional and inform him of what you're about to do." The same website has a recipe for "wild possum kabob" As part of the recipe you are to "marinate overnight in a mixture of meat marinade and soy sauce. Kentucky residents who have no fridge can use an ice chest and may use radiator coolant instead of soy sauce." After further preparation, you "cook over a barbecue, pit, 50 gallon drum or any other fire till you get the desired result. For added flavor, you can cook it over burning tires." It then gives the calories, carbs, etc. and for "fat," says that "If you eat this kind of crap, fat probably isn't your biggest concern."

Despite the modern opprobrium, opossum has a long history of being eaten in the U.S. I love the following picture of possums hanging in a shop in New York in 1916 obtained here.
Opossums hanging in New York.
A recipe for opossum is found in the Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, various editions. I've had good luck with recipes from that book so decided to use it for this opossum. I don't have the book and I'm just finding pieces of the recipe on the internet and filling in gaps from other sources. It suggests parblanching the opossum "in two or three changes of water" for "about 20 minutes each," then "use recipes for rabbit. Serve with: Turnip greens."

I was not able to find the pages for parblanching but learned elsewhere that parblanching is used to "leach excess salt, excess blood or strong flavors" from meat. Okay, I can understand why you would do this for opossum. You place the meat "in a large amount of cold water and slowly bring...it to a boil, uncovered..." Then simmer for the amount of time specified in the recipe, then drain and shock it by "plunging it into [a] cold water bath. The bath stops the cooking process in order to firm the food..."
Opossum in pot of water for one of three sessions of 20 minutes each. It started in cold water, heated to a boil and then simmered. 
After the first boil there was significant fat that was removed.
The cold water bath after boiling cooled off the meat and stopped the cooking process. 
Cooling off after the third boil. 
The Joy of Cooking recipe for roast rabbit says to preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Then stuff the [opossum] with "any recipe suitable for fowl, adding the [opossum's] sauteed chopped liver. Truss it. Brush the [opossum] all over with: Melted butter or vegetable oil. Dredge with: Seasoned Flour. Place on a rack on its side in a roasting pan in the oven. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Baste every 15 minutes with the drippings in the pan or, if necessary, with: Additional butter. Turn the [opossum] when cooking time is about half over. Cook until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Make: Pan Gravy. Serve with: Grated fresh horseradish and Boiled Potatoes."

I could not find the Joy of Cooking recipe for stuffing, but found one in White Trash Cooking and "Aunt Donnah's Roast Possum." Brown one chopped onion in one tablespoon of fat. Add the possum liver, one cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, one chopped hard-boiled egg, one teaspoon of salt and water. "Mix thoroughly and stuff possum. Truss like a fowl." I found the same basic recipe here at food.com, which also added a chopped red pepper. I did not have the liver, so could not add it. 
Stuffing before insert in the opossum.
The stuffed opossum.
The Joy of Cooking recipe for seasoned flour is one cup of flour, one teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg or ginger. 
The opossum stuffed and covered in seasoned flour and sitting on a rack in the roasting pan.
The food.com recipe (linked above), which basically follows the Joy of Cooking recipe, suggests adding two tablespoons of water to the roaster. I forgot to do that. 
I basted it every 15 minutes with melted better. 
Out of the oven and ready to carve. The red pepper in the stuffing stands out.
The back of the roasted opossum.
I looked on the internet for how to cook turnip greens. I found something, but then couldn't find any turnip greens at the store. So I settled on beet greens and Swiss chard. I put them together in a pan with vegetable broth, a little olive oil, pepper and salt, and cooked it until it wilted significantly. 
beet greens
I used three leaves of Swiss chard.
Altogether in a frying pan.
Wilted and in a serving bowl.
The final product was fantastic - beyond my expectations. The opossum is dark meat and very moist. The stuffing created a little bit of crisp and a salty taste that mixed perfectly with the juicy and tender meat. The opossum had no gaminess whatsoever, even the fat in the hind leg had no gamy taste. Both the hind and front limbs had significant meat on them. The stuffing was a tad bit sweet and was a nice complement to the slightly bitter greens. The stuffing and greens were perfect together. I had seconds on stuffing and greens because I enjoyed the combination so much. The texture and look probably most resembled chicken, but I would not say it tasted like chicken. It was very moist, perhaps just a tad bit sweet, but not as sweet as the stuffing, and very pleasing and savory.  
Opossum cut into pieces with stuffing at the right end of the platter.
Stuffing, greens, a hind leg and a front leg. Great meal. 
Feasting on a leg. 
I read on one post where someone's mother said "opossum always tasted better the next day as leftovers." Cognizant of that, and also wanting to share it with a friend, I restrained from eating any more and made sure to save plenty of opossum for tomorrow. This ranks right up with the best wild game I've ever eaten. Fantastic. 

11 comments:

  1. Wow, I didn't realize you had other options for recipes. I am so glad that you didn't follow the one for possum sushi. It is kind of hard to get over the psychological barriers of eating possum, but I have to agree that the meat was pretty good, probably better than rabbit. I'm still working on the psychological barrier, however.

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    1. I could tell that your head was playing games with you. It was actually very similar to rabbit I've prepared and so I had no psychological hesitancy whatever, unlike the raccoon that was a little of a struggle.

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  2. It's good to know opossum eaters have a sense of humor although I think you settled on the superior recipe.

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  3. This is awesome. I've never seen feet like that. I would have never guessed that opossum would turn out to be one of your more favorite animals.

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    1. I really thought that possum would be kind of gross to deal with, but it was so much like rabbit that I didn't even think about it.

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  4. Replies
    1. Come on Ano, get a little adventure in your life! No reason to be so dour.

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  5. Thanks... That was awesome! I am always up for trying something new... I can't say I have ever thought of possum. You should try beaver... jokes should follow below... One of the better "critters" I have ever eaten.

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  6. how could you kill my babies
    you sick monster
    </////3

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  7. BBBÄÄÄÄHHHHHHH !!!!

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