Taking a Chance on Wild Game

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I have to give some props to the Quebecois government. The French speaking part of Canada has the right mindset when it comes to food – they allow the production of unpasteurized milk cheese and allow the import of it (making it the only place that I know that you can legally get it in North America, although you still can’t transport it back across the border), it is about the only place in North America where you can find horse and seal on the menu and now they are allowing a trial period to let chefs serve wild game (critters actually hunted in the forest, not their farm raised cousins) in their restaurants.

From the Montreal Gazette:

…the plan will evolve gradually and under strict supervision by the wildlife and agriculture departments to ensure that no animal species is endangered and that food safety is assured. For now, only white-tailed deer from Anticosti Island in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, home to more than 160,000 of the animals, will be allowed for sale. The squirrel, hare, muskrat and beaver, will come from all over the province, but will be available only for a short period during the fall hunting season. Blanchet said only species whose numbers were not endangered and which are known to be free of bacteria or illnesses harmful to humans were chosen for the pilot project.

There are a small number of restaurants that are participating in the trial period, most notably Toque, Au Pied de Cochon and Joe Beef. For those of you who are not familiar with the Montreal restaurant scene, those are arguably the 3 best restaurants in the city and the chef/owners of all 3 of those places are avid hunters/raging alcoholics/complete nut jobs. They have also long been on the leading edge of localvorism, nose to tail eating and sustainable food raising practices, so why not be on the bleeding edge when it comes to wild game?

You want a good reason for this:

Laprise (ed. Note: chef/owner of Toque) said allowing restaurants, and eventually specialty grocers and butchers, to sell wild game will also reduce waste. He cited figures indicating that only as little as 40 per cent of all meat from the 26,000 to 28,000 wild deer killed during the annual hunt is butchered and cooked. The rest is left in the woods or by the roadside and goes to waste.

Of course, Martin Picard of the absolutely amazing Au Pied de Cochon and head psychopath of the Montreal food scene was already ahead of the game game when he published a recipe for squirrel sushi in his Sugar Shack cookbook:

The sushi dish, he wrote in the introduction to the squirrel recipe, was his way of getting even with the little rodents for all the damage they inflicted at his sugar shack.

It looks something like this: