How to Cook and Eat a Merganser

Plus, recipes for groundhog, opossum, and other “acquired” tastes

Our grandparents didn’t turn their snouts up at some of the lesser creatures to wind up in a cooler. Maybe it’s time we all threw a possum on the grill if for no other reason than to see what we’re missing. Here are five ways to cook five critters that will certainly broaden your culinary horizons.

Merganser

Like liver, the mean from fish-eating ducks is strong. So treat merganser like liver: Marinate the breast fillets overnight in brandy, olive oil, garlic, and paprika. Fry in bacon grease with onions. Don’t expect it to taste like chicken.

Groundhog

What to do with the beloved pasture poodle? Noodle it. Parboil a cleaned groundhog and remove the meat. Cook 2 1/2 cups of noodles in one can of beef broth and 1/2 cup water. Add 1 tablespoon cornstarch, a dash of salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon butter. Mix 1 cup of cooked peas and 1/2 cup onion. Dump it all in a casserole dish, top with french-fried onion rings, and cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Hickory Shad

Here’s an old-school, new-school angle for an anadromous fish that can be caught along the Atlantic coast. Old school: Smoke whole gutted fish in a standard smoker. Use a fork to strip flakes of flesh from the bones. Eat and enjoy. New school: Mix smoked shad with garlic, salt, tarragon, and lemon juice. Spread on crackers, eat, and enjoy.

Bowfin

Bowfin

A hefty dose of Cajun seasoning bring out of the flavor of bowfin.

Call it what you like—grinnell, blackfish, cypress trout—but old-timers called this fish dinner. Fillet the fish with the skin on. Turn skin side down, and use a spoon to scrape flesh from in between the bones. Mix with green onions, mashed potatoes, breadcrumbs, one beaten egg, and Cajun seasoning. Pan-fry in shallow oil.

Opossum

Bring back the long-lost Southern staple. Season one cleaned opossum with salt and pepper; dust lightly with flour. Place it on its back in a roasting pan, add 1/2 cup of water, and bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Drain the water and arrange split sweet potatoes around the opossum. Sprinkle the opossum with a tablespoon of sugar, cover with 6 bacon slices, and cook another 30 minutes.