Last night, three of my friends and I got together for an “exotic meat” dinner. Below is the proof and a short write-up of each meat.
American Kobe beef is an off-shoot of Japanese Wagyu beef. It is super tender, exceedingly well marbled, and delicately flavorful. This steak was a top sirloin, not typically one of my favorite cuts. However, it came out beautifully, and tasted fantastic both raw and cooked.
Second Course: Elk Tenderloin
Elk is a delicate meat that can be gamey if not properly prepared, but I have found, in my limited elk experience, that it can be an amazing dish if done right. We made ours in a beef and cream sauce, heavy on the tarragon, with carrots. The tenderness, no doubt, can be attributed to the cut more than anything, but the fantastic texture can only be described as buttery soft, and the flavor, while suggesting a hint of game, was uniquely tasty. A lamb lover, I think, will appreciate elk’s flavor.
Third Course: Buffalo Steak
Buffalo and bison meats are not quite as exotic as some of the forthcoming meats, but they both have a slightly sweet taste to them that makes them very similar to beef. We coated our steaks in chimichuri and grilled them to medium rare. I found this particular steak “good,” but not great. I don’t think it was just the cooking style – I love chimichuri and the steak was perfectly cooked.
Fourth Course: Roasted Llama Steak
The Llama steak was one of the scarier meats for me in this process, because I have a problem picturing it as not gamey. I wasn’t able to find any grilled llama recipes, but I wish we had braved it anyway, because I think it would have been better than the “sweet onion roast” we chose to use. The llama was prepared like a roast, seared stovetop then cooked with onions, carrots, garlic, salt, and a slew of other goodies for about 12 minutes. The resulting steaks were fairly neutral tasting. They were distinctly not familiar meat, but not especially odd tasting. The llama steaks might be fantastic if cooked better, but in our preparation, it was just a little too much like a poor quality steak from the round or the chuck that just didn’t cut it. I didn’t need a third bite to know that if I ever eat llama again, it won’t be via that recipe. I think next time through, I might season the steaks and grill them.
Fifth Course: Yak
Having never had yak before, I envisioned it as a gamey and tough meat. I used a modified tenderloin recipe and adapted it for what were essentially trimmed strip steaks. The yak bits were seared in a saute pan, then crusted with dijon mustard and a custom breadcrumb mix, then seared again to brown up the coating. The yak was served medium rare.
Surprisingly, everyone liked the yak and three of us finished our entire portion. The yak was neither gamey nor tough, and was actually quite enjoyable. The meat has a uniquely stringy texture, rich yet unassuming, beefy but still humble. It was both flavorful and tender, certainly not something you’d mistake for beef, but not altogether crazy tasting at all. If you’re interested in exotic meats, but tentative about some animals, yak is a pretty exotic one with an incredible accessible flavor.
Sixth Course: Frog’s Legs
Frog’s legs are not very exotic – they are available in many places – and they are pretty tasty in general. This was, however, my first time frying them at home. Previously, I’d baked them in a slight olive oil drizzle much less successfully. This time through, we battered them and fried them, as they are usually found. The frog legs were tasty – I had one fishy bite that I wasn’t too happy with, but other than that, they were very good. Frog legs have the texture of a whitefish, but really do taste like much more like chicken provided they are well washed and properly cooked.
Seventh Course: Rabbit Loin
Rabbit is, again, not terribly hard to find at a decent supermarket. Many butcher shops either carry it or can order it at a reasonable price – maybe $10-$15/lb. We marinated our rabbit loin in oil, red wine vinegar, paprika, and other spices. The directions called for grilling over indirect heat for 35 minutes(!). Knowing it seemed long, we let it cook for most of that chunk and were a little upset by how dry the meat was upon serving. The rabbit was mostly a miss because of the prep.
There is both dark meat and white meat in a rabbit, and although I generally prefer white meat, the dark meat is very tasty.
Eighth Course: Snapping Turtle
We all confessed to being terrified of the turtle meat. First off, the turle looked disgusting in its frozen, freeze dried form. Secondly, it’s not easily accessible; the pieces are all random chunks in odd sizes and often you can see where it comes from. It’s easy to spot a leg or foot, the backbone, the neck, etc. And it’s scary.
The turtle had a slight lakewater smell to it on defrosting, and we were instructed to marinate it in lime juice before cooking. Marinating is a common was to remove gaminess, people often soak fish in milk, for example. After grilling the turtle, I can assure you that milk would have been a better choice, because the turtle tasted like lime meat. It seemed to have so little flavor of its own, but when you did taste turtle, it was just dull, gray meat. I do not have to have turtle again, but if I do, it will certainly be in a stew, which is a much more traditional preparation.
Overall, it was a great experience and it was a lot of fun. Our next order will likely be more common fare. We’ve discussed alligator tail steaks, rattlesnake, and python, but we’re also tossing around the idea of order real kobe beef rib meat, the kind that costs well over $100 a pound. Nonetheless, having had so many meats for the first time was a great man-style adventure, one I recommend to the culinarily adventurous.