Five Tastiest Non-Farm Animals to Throw on the Barbie This Memorial Day Weekend
1. Grilled squid
Americans have corn dogs and deep-fried Twinkies at the county fair. Japanese festival booths offer whole squid speared by bamboo skewers. Season with salt and pepper and grill for only a minute on each side, brushing with a teriyaki sauce for flavor. When just barely cooked through, top it with two pats of room-temperature butter.
Get your squid and cuttlefish at Asian markets such as Marukai or Mitsuwa in Costa Mesa, or 99 Ranch Market in Irvine.
- Marukai, 2974 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 751-8433.
- Mitsuwa, 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-6699.
- 99 Ranch Market, locations in Irvine, Anaheim and Fountain Valley.
2. Venison kebabs
Commercially sold venison is harvested from deer that range freely on large ranches. They're not exactly farmed, but not exactly wild, either. As with other four-legged mammals, the meat from the loin is the most tender and appropriate for grilling. With deer and elk, the loin meat is called backstrap meat. Cube these, season, wrap with bacon and roast for 15 or 20 minutes using the method for MOINK balls we covered last week.
Wholesome Choice in Irvine and Anaheim Hills and Green Farm Market in Fountain Valley carry frozen, vacuum-packed venison.
Wholesome Choice, 5755 E La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 779-7000; also at 18040 Culver Dr., Irvine, (949) 551-4111, and
Green Farm Market, 16042 Magnolia St., Fountain Valley, (714) 843-1818.
One of the only meats you can harvest from your own property, the common garden snail is delicious roasted in a garlic-and-parsley compound butter. If you catch your own snails, keep them in a cool, shaded box for a week with water and rosemary branches. They'll eat the rosemary and self-flavor themselves.
You can also take the easy way out and buy ready-to-cook, butter-stuffed escargot from the meat counter at the Tustin Whole Foods Market. Set them on a flame-proof dish, set up your grill like you did for last week's MOINK balls, and cook until the butter's heated through.
Whole Foods Market, 2847 Park Ave., Tustin, (714) 566-7650.
4. Sparrow on a stick
In feudal Japan, chickens were raised for rich folks to eat. Commoners netted wild birds such as sparrows and ate those instead. In very old-school robatayaki restaurants in Japan, you can order suzume: beak removed, de-feathered, head-on, butterflied little birds. What little meat is on their tiny, hollow crunchy bones tastes like a miniature bite of dark-meat chicken. Their paper-thin skulls crunch pleasantly, reminding you of that scene in The Terminator when a robot heel crushes a human skull.
Where to find it in OC: get yourself a net and DIY. As far as I know, there is no license needed to net wild sparrows, but consult the Department of Fish and Game before you go all Bear Grylls this weekend.
The trickiest part of cooking a rattlesnake, other than catching one, are the hundreds of hair-like rib bones you'll run into. Reptile meat is practically fat-free and rather tough. It can be grilled quickly for a few minutes, or stewed for a long time to make it tender. Since we're grilling, grinding it into sausage or burgers would be a good route to take.
Where to get it: The closest place to buy rattlesnake-and-rabbit sausage to my knowledge are the two Wurstküche locations in LA. But if you're feeling unfulfilled after nobody went to the emergency room last year, you should know that our local parklands are home to several species of rattlesnakes. But you didn't hear that from me.