Dartmouth ‘Tree Chicken’ Quesadillas Are a Backyard Delicacy
I know what you're thinking: Gazelle, what on earth is a "tree chicken?" and you might be weirded out by the truth.
It's slang for squirrels.
Yes, I eat squirrels.
What you might know as the common eastern gray squirrel that is found knocking down your backyard bird feeders and searching through the garbage in city parks are actually delicacy to some. As unorthodox as it may sound, it's actually very delicious.
Now, you might also be asking yourself, what the heck does the town of Dartmouth have to do with this dish? Well, for those who asked, I'm glad you did.
I've had squirrel from Westport, and even down on Cape Cod, but nothing was comparable to the squirrels that can be found deep in the woods of Dartmouth. Their size is much larger (for reasons I am unaware of) and that helps a lot when preparing the meat since there is very little of it to begin with.
You see, the official gray squirrel hunting season is from Columbus Day to January 2. A good friend of mine who actually had his hunting license during that period of time turned me onto squirrel meat and I was blown away.
The taste is like a combination of chicken and turkey. It has the "gamey" taste of dark turkey meat and the juiciness of a rotisserie chicken, making it one of the tastiest meats I've had in a while.
Still with me? I know this may seem very gross to some, strange to others, and just a turn-off to most, but believe me when I say that until you actually try squirrel meat, don't knock it. It helps if you cook it into a delicious cheesy quesadilla.
Each quesadilla holds about one or two whole squirrels; again, they are small rodents and don't have much meat to them. Begin by buttering up a soft flour tortilla and placing it on a flat pan at medium heat. Once the tortilla begins to warm up, hit it with your choice of cheese. I like to use a taco or Mexican blend for the flavor.
In another pan, cook up your meat with some salt, pepper, a dash of crushed red pepper flakes, some onion powder and a pinch of garlic. If you have a packet of taco seasoning, then just use that instead for easier preparation.
Once the meat is cooked and the cheese is starting to melt on top of the tortilla, place the meat onto half of the tortilla, into the gooey melted cheese, and fold the other half over it. Press lightly for a good 10 seconds then place the quesadilla onto a cutting board. Cut into four sections then serve with a dollop of sour cream or freshly-made guacamole.
So go ahead and try these tasty little "tree chickens." Trust me, you won't be sorry.