Young and Hungry

Muskrat With Roasted Vegetables: A Toothy Party Treat?

While at a party in Mount Pleasant on Saturday evening, an acquaintance of mine walked through the dining room into the kitchen with two foil wrapped containers, muttering something indecipherable to a group of people a couple steps away.

A few puzzled moments later, somebody asked for clarification: "Did he just say muskrat?"

"Yeah, I think he said muskrat," another replied.

Sure enough, partygoers were to sample some amphibious rodent! Two of the furry creatures had been procured earlier that day in Cambridge on Maryland's Eastern Shore as a "catch of the day" from a local seafood place—only $4 per muskrat.

We weren't quite sure if the muskrat was done. It looked raw in parts, but the cook thought we were in safe territory. So, how did it taste?

Eh... to be brutally honest, the soft, chewy meat was very brackish—the critters live in the tidal estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay—and did not taste very appetizing. Visually, having the eye sockets empty and gnawing teeth protruding was not too pleasing, even if a cute cranberry was added for decorative effect. To add to the experience, the muskrat chunk I put in my mouth had some sort of hard bone particle in it. With an unappetizing sample of rodent tucked into a spot between my jaws, I moved to the back patio, where I covertly removed the remaining muskrat.

With so much leftover rodent meat, there were thoughts of pairing it with chocolate fondue for dessert. (That never happened, though. Possibly for the better.)

While muskrat is plentiful in the waters of the Eastern Shore, it's hard to imagine foodies getting jazzed up about locavorism involving these rodents. As John Root Hopkins, a muskrat cookbook author living in Dorchester County, told PBS' Independent Lens a few years ago: "The main rule in cooking rat is to overcook to the point where the meat can be easily removed from the bone." (Perhaps we should have braised ours, instead of roasting it.)

While eating muskrats might be a foreign concept to those in D.C., trapping, skinning, and cooking the creature is common in some Eastern Shore communities during the winter months, when trapping is allowed.

What else can you do with muskrat, besides not eat it? You can make meatloaf, a creamy casserole, and stew.

Just make sure you properly skin the muskrat, which can be done in under two minutes if you're good at it.

Photos of muskrat and roasted vegetables by Michael E. Grass

Comments

  1. #1

    is that bar food?

  2. #2

    Seems like it could be a seasonal specialty. Winter muskrat tacos?

  3. #3

    I think I just puked in my mouth......

  4. #4

    Michael Grass' email address to share some restaurant news?

  5. #5

    Your friend sounds like a creep

  6. #6

    I have some UrbanRats--natives to the 14th & U Sts community- that you might be interested in sampling. What's your address so I can have them delivered via Ralph the exterminator?

  7. #7

    I honestly feel like these pictures and details make muskrat sound as bad as people assume it to be. It is very good. And doesnt sound like it was cooked very well from the details given in the article. If it was then these negative things would not have been said.

  8. #8

    That cant possibly be real is it ?? Disgusting looking!! is the fur and all in there?? looks just lifted fresh off the road ,, there is no way in hell that stuff would ever get in my mouth!!!

  9. #9

    Actually where I live in Southern NJ eating muskrat is something we look forward to in the winter. When cooked correctly the little rodents are quite tasty! Various retaurants in my area freeze the catch until they have enough to sell tickets for "rat dinners" that sell at around $25 a person. They allways sell out...not too shabby! :-)

  10. #10

    My Mother-in-Law grew up on the eastern shore. She looks forward to those weekend church dinners back on the shore that host Muskrat dinners. Drives 3 hours each way to get to them. When the kids were little she made it seem like a great adventure to go and eat Muskrat. Then she got to the grandchildren. Now she's working on the great grands. Believe me, it's NOT an adventure! Those things are slimy, oily, musky, with small bones all throughout...disgusting. Of all the kids and grands, there's only one that would even consider eating Muskrat today, and he's just kissing up to Grandma!

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