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Squirrel on menu for weekend event

With squirrel season in full swing until the end of February and the statewide Big Squirrel Challenge this weekend, Wil Hafner has pulled a page from his wild game cookbook to pique the interest of hunters and home cooks alike.

This time he’s giving up the goods on a bayou classic: boudin.

Hafner is facility manager for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Potlatch Cook’s Lake Nature Center in east-central Arkansas.

“Boudin is a popular Cajun sausage consisting of meat and rice,” Hafner said in the Jan. 5 edition of the Arkansas Wildlife Weekly Newsletter. “Traditional boudin consists of pork shoulder, pork liver, Cajun spices and the trinity (equal parts bell pepper, onion and celery). Boudin also is a great use for many wild game species, including the highly abundant squirrel.”

Other wild game meats can be substituted for the squirrel, and Hafner has a particular fondness for waterfowl in the dish. The recipe makes big batches, so it’s a great rainy-day activity to prepare and freeze for later. Just be sure to save a little sample for the night you prepare it. A quick roll in breadcrumbs and a dip in some hot grease will have you digging into the storage bags quicker than they can freeze.

COOK’S LAKE BUSHYTAIL BOUDIN

Ingredients

12 squirrels, cleaned and quartered

2 yellow onions, roughly chopped

4 ribs celery, roughly chopped

8 cloves garlic, smashed

2 bell peppers, roughly chopped

2 jalapenos, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

4 tablespoons Cajun seasoning

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper

1 quart chicken stock

2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

4 cups long grain white rice, cooked

Place squirrels in a crock pot. Add the yellow onions, celery, garlic, bell and jalapeno peppers, bay leaves, 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning and chicken stock. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours until the squirrel begins to fall off of the bone. Remove the squirrel and separate the meat from the bones, place the meat in mixing bowl, discard the bones, strain the broth. Add the warm cooked rice to the meat mixture as well as the green onion, parsley, 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning and 1 cup of the reserved broth. Wearing gloves, mix until consistency is almost paste-like. Meat can be stuffed into hog casings and poached, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried or wrapped and fried in an eggroll wrapper.

Don’t forget to sign up for the AGFC’s statewide Big Squirrel Challenge, a fun event where participants can bring their biggest three squirrels from the day’s hunt to a weigh-in (field dressed, but with the skin on), to have a chance at prizes and medals. Visit www.agfc.com/bigsquirrel for more information.

— Randy Zellers is assistant chief of communications at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.