Cooking the Unthinkable: Nutria

Originally published at Wannabe TV Chef Blog.

Cooking the Unthinkable is a series that examines some of the more eccentric ingredients.  Whether you are a fan of the bizarre or are preparing for the eminent collapse of Western society this series will help you better stomach weird food.

The Nutria is, for lack of a more appropriate phrase, a giant rat.  Not as large as the “rodents of unusual size” found in the deadly Fire Swamp, but still quite large going 16 to 18 pounds.  They were originally imported to Louisiana for the fur trade but the result is an ecological disaster for the entire Gulf Coast.  The little beasties have multiplied, spreading to Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.

The problem in the Pelican State has gotten so bad that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is actually promoting it as a food source and have set up a web site complete with recipes.  The site also contains more on the history, biology and eco-impact of one of the worst examples of invasive species introduction.  Great job, mankind.

Presumably  nutria are lower is calories, fat and cholesterol then any other protein.  The flavor has been compared to dark meat turkey.  So, if you’re feeling skippy want not pop a cap in giant rat?  To help here’s a recipe from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries web site:

Nutria Chili
Recipe by: Chef Enola Prudhomme
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds nutria ground meat
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup tomato paste
4 cups beef stock (or water)
1 can red kidney beans (opt.)

In a heavy 5-quart pot on high heat, add oil and heat until very hot. Add nutria meat, and cook and stir 10 minutes. Add salt, red pepper, chili powder, onion and both bell peppers. Cook and stir 15 minutes. Add tomato paste and 4 cups stock. Cook 30 minutes; reduce heat to medium. Add red kidney beans; cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot!
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