Fried squirrel and gravy has always made a great combination. This recipe combines the two into a meaty, creamy gravy. Instead of biscuits, the gravy gets poured over fried grits cakes. The cakes are easy to make and the crispy outer coating and creamy center make the perfect base for some gravy.
Since the squirrel gets slow cooked, then picked from the bone and fried, this is the perfect way to turn a tough, older squirrel into a tender meal. My favorite way to cook them is to place the squirrels, along with a can of chicken broth or a couple of cups of water, into my Weston Realtree Slow Cooker. Season them well with salt and pepper and cook either overnight or all day on low. When you take them out, the squirrels will be falling-apart tender. Just let them cool and pick the meat from the bone.
The grit cakes are easy to make, but they do require some time in the refrigerator to set up. I like to prepare the mixture the day before, spread into a parchment-paper-lined sheet pan, then refrigerate overnight. The next day, the cake will be set up and you can flip it out onto a table or countertop and cut it into individual cakes. The cakes then get dipped into egg wash and flour, and fried crisp in a skillet. Always use good, old-fashioned, grits. I prefer stone ground grits with a fairly coarse texture for this one, they hold up to the extra handling better.
2 cups stone ground grits
8 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (optional if serving as a breakfast)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1.5 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter, in slices
4 eggs, beaten (3 for adding to grits and 1 for dipping the cakes before dredging in flour)
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup seasoned flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour with a teaspoon each of salt and black pepper and a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper) for coating
Oil for frying
Boned meat from 2-3 squirrels
1 egg, beaten
1.5 cups seasoned flour, divided into ½ cup and 1 cup
2 teaspoons black pepper
3-4 cups of milk
Start with the grit cakes. Add the grits to 8 cups of boiling water. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often. Once the grits are soft, add half the cream and begin stirring in the butter, a piece at a time. Once all the butter is in, slowly stir in the remaining cream, two tablespoons of flour, the shredded cheese, and the garlic, if desired. Continue stirring for 10 more minutes until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Temper the beaten eggs by slowly adding grits, a small spoonful at a time, to the egg. Once you have the eggs close to the same temperature as the remaining grits, pour the egg mixture into the grits and stir well.
Line a half sheet baking pan (cookie sheet) with parchment paper. Pour the grit mixture into the pan and spread to a half to three-quarter inch layer. Allow the grits to set up for 30 minutes, top with another piece of parchment paper, and refrigerate overnight to set.
Once the grit cake has set, flip it out onto a table or counter top. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the cake into roughly 3 inch by 4 inch individual cakes. Dip each cake into egg wash, then coat with seasoned flour. Fry in a quarter inch of hot oil for three to four minutes per side, or until crisp and golden brown. Gently move the cakes from the oil to a paper towel lined platter or a cooling rack.
Make the gravy by first coating the squirrel with beaten egg, then tossing in 1 cup of seasoned flour. Heat a quarter inch of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the squirrel meat until the crust is just crisp, the squirrel is already cooked so it only takes a few minutes to fry. Remove the squirrel from the oil to a paper-towel-lined plate. Drain all but three tablespoons or so of the oil from the pan. Retain any leftover brown bits of squirrel meat in the pan.
Add the remaining half cup of flour to the pan. Stir the flour for two minutes, then add the milk and black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Check for salt and add more if needed.
Return the squirrel pieces to the pan and stir well to incorporate and coat the meat with gravy.
Plate by placing one or two grit cakes, then spooning the squirrel gravy over them. Serve for breakfast, dinner, or as an appetizer.
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