Vegetarians and the squeamish, stop here.
I stocked up on Hungarian paprika, and friend Mike brought over a pressure-cooker, so I didn’t have to start until 5 p.m. I am now won over by the pressure cooker’s charms. Especially after we used the remainder of the carcass to make raccoon stock while we dined, and it was done by the time we got to the cheesecake.
The question of the evening: Why is this meat different from any other meat?
Well, turns out it’s not. Not really. Aside from the foot and a little gamy, musky flavor. The goulash was superb. A dark red meat in a dark red sauce. Quick to melt off the bone. It has its own flavor, but that flavor is not far from beef. Some people, braced for the bizarre, were a little disappointed at how familiar the flavor was. I, the cook, was relieved at their nonchalance. It was a lot like porcupine, W. and I mused. We marveled that an animal like this should be an outcast meat while creatures like squid, which might as well be from outer space, are standard at family restaurants—if renamed and deep-fried to hide their true alien natures.
We told tales of nonstandard meats we had eaten. W. and I were hardly the only experimenters in this Madison bunch. Liz had tried squirrel in college, for instance. Stacie had eaten pretty much everything on four legs as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa. (“If it was proteinaceous,” she said, “it was meat.”) Including billy goat, about which Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game says: “Never butcher a billy goat.” I read bits from Basic Butchering; W. and I recounted this year’s porcupine experiment. We all discussed whether Madison city code or our basic cultural mores would forbid us from butchering various other animals on our back porch, and how we would deal with the drainage. Whether urban jackrabbits would taste foul on account of their omnivory, and whether we might, as some say you should do with opossum, catch them live and feed them grain for two weeks to fix the problem. As the success of the coon naturally prompted thoughts of the next challenge. Stacie had supplemented the goulash with a savory sweet-potato pie and some cornmeal-fried okra — a fitting nod to the Southern appreciation for coon, and the tradition there of roasting it with sweet potatoes. Bracing for the possibility that the coon might be a disaster, I had made a Viennese cucumber salad—but forgot completely to serve it.
The experiment isn’t over. I have a clear, musky coon stock to use. And a pile of thick soft fat from the carcass—is it possible to make coon lard? Why is it that the word “coon” adds a certain flourish to every ordinary food? Next up: coon risotto, Mike suggests. Risotto di procione, for the squeamish.