Ah, city living. The museums, the opera, the vermin. Damn annoying, those pests, making
themselves so at home in your apartment. An urban inevitability, perhaps, but if so, why
not put them to use, such as saving money on your grocery bill? Make infestation a
good thing, through the following recipes.
Next time you do laundry in your rat-infested basement, make sure to bring along a spear or crossbow. If you can nab one of these alleged “public health nuisances,” you can prep them in a variety of ways for dinner.
Try Bordeaux-style grilled rats. Gut and skin rats, then baste them with “a thick sauce of olive oil and crushed shallots,” according to Calvin Schwabe, author of Unmentionable Cuisine. His instructions tell you to cook the rats over a crackling fire, but a small countertop grill would probably do the trick.
If you lean more toward “world” cuisine, Schwabe mentions a giant cane rat stew from West Africa. Again, gut and skin a few rats, then pan-fry them “in a mixture of butter and peanut oil.” When the meat browns, add tomato, “hot red peppers, and salt.” Keep simmering until the flesh softens, and serve with rice.
The ancient Romans, in true epicure fashion, had a thing for stuffed dormice, says Schwabe. Take mouse meat and add “pepper, pine nuts, broth, asafetida and some garum” (or anchovy paste). Then, do as the Romans: Fill the split-open mice with this mix, and stick them in the oven until golden brown.
In the Mexican countryside, raton de campo asado — skewered, fire-grilled field mouse — is a sort of rodent anticucho, he notes. You could easily incorporate this idea into a more cosmopolitan setting, using a George Foreman grill and an adapted kebab recipe. Mix a half-cup of olive oil and tablespoon of white vinegar with one teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, paprika, and garlic. Place skinned mice in bowl with marinade, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours. When you’re ready to grill them, coat bamboo skewers with cooking spray, and slide mice onto them laterally. Cook for five to seven minutes.
Need something a little more special? Another recipe Schwabe mentions — souris à la crème — might be just the dish. Soak the mice in ethyl alcohol for two hours, then bread them in flour and butter. Last, sauté with cloves, and then cover in a cream sauce (maybe a traditional béchamel?).
Six-legged creatures more your problem? On the streets of Cambodia and Thailand, cockroaches commonly come boiled and fried.
The Bay Area Bug Eating Society (BABES) gives simple instructions for this Southeast Asian staple: Heat grease in a pan. When it crackles, add roaches, frying until crisp. Then, put the cockroaches on a sheet of paper towel, to drain the grease.
If you feel more adventurous, use cockroaches in place of crickets in BABE’s coconut curry cricket stir-fry. Brown sliced onions, chopped chili peppers, and garlic in a pan. Then, add three dozen cockroaches and seasonal vegetables. When the arthropods and veggies have softened, add one can of coconut milk and curry powder, to taste.
To “source” your ants, many a survival guide suggests wetting a stick — either with water or your own urine — and poking it into wherever these teensy buggers swarm to catch them. So perhaps try behind your refrigerator?
Tacos are one of the best ways to savor ants, according to Creepy Crawly Cuisine: The Gourmet Guide to Edible Insects. For this dish, gather eight ounces of ants, preferably larvae or pupae, and pan-fry with two tablespoons of butter. Gradually add black pepper, cumin, one chopped tomato, and several diced Serrano chilies, to taste. Stuff in taco shells, and top with cilantro before serving. Olé!