By Michael Pendley
Growing up, the latter days of August caused conflicting feelings. On the one hand, school was about to start and that meant an end to those daylight-to-dark explorations of the woods and river bottoms around our home that summer freedom offered. On the other, it meant the start of squirrel season, and for a hunting crazed kid like me, that signaled the beginning of the best few months of the year. Squirrel season would soon bleed over into dove season, then deer, then rabbit and quail, taking me on a non-stop hunting adventure that would last until late winter.
Older squirrels were always saved for the stew or dumpling pot. Most of our young squirrels got pan fried back then — and they still do today. To tell the truth there aren’t many meals I enjoy more than a plate full of crispy, golden-fried squirrel. But even the best recipes need a shake up every now and then to keep things interesting. One of our favorites is this Buffalo wing-style fried squirrel.
We start out the traditional way, dredging the quartered squirrel in seasoned flour and slowly pan frying in a mixture of lard and vegetable oil until done. Then we add a twist, tossing the fried squirrel in a flavorful Buffalo wing sauce for a bit of spice. Serve with a few celery and carrot sticks and ranch or blue-cheese dressing for dipping.
2-3 young squirrels cut into five sections each (4 legs and back section)
Lard or vegetable oil for frying
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
½-teaspoon garlic powder
½-teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup Frank’s red hot sauce.
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
½-teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼-teaspoon garlic powder
¼-teaspoon smoked paprika
Mix the dredge ingredients in a shallow dish. Dredge the squirrel pieces in the flour mixture to coat well on all sides. Move the dredged squirrel to a wire rack to rest for a few minutes so the crust sets on the meat.
While the dredged squirrel rests, heat a quarter-inch of oil or lard in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Test the temperature of the oil by dropping a pinch of the flour into the pan. If it immediately starts to bubble and sizzle, you’re ready to go. Gently place the squirrel in the pan, taking care not to overcrowd the skillet.
Fry for three to four minutes on one side, then flip the pieces to fry the opposite side for an additional three to four minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cover the pan, leaving the lid slightly cracked to allow steam to escape. Fry the squirrel an additional eight to 10 minutes, then remove the lid and turn the squirrel again to brown and crisp both sides. Move the squirrel to a wire rack and place it in a warm oven if you need to fry a second batch.
While the squirrel fries, add all sauce ingredients to a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring often until everything is well combined. Reduce heat to low and hold the sauce until the squirrel is finished frying.
Transfer the fried squirrel to a large bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Pour over the sauce, place the lid on the bowl, and give the bowl a gentle shake to coat the fried squirrel well with sauce.
Serve the Buffalo wing squirrel with carrot spears, celery and blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping.
Try Out More Recipes with NSSF’s Game Meat Cooking Series
Where hunter and classically trained chef Georgia Pellegrini shares recipes from her book, “Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time.”