Monday, September 10, 2012
Critter on the Half Shell
I saw my first Armadillo in Oklahoma when I was 13. I had seen and even caught one in Texas before, but even then they were moving north and by 62 they had finally made it to Deep fork Bottoms.
The first one I caught in Oklahoma was at the golf course in Okmulgee. My Uncle Floyd new the guy who was the grounds keeper there and we stopped by to talk to him one day. While we were there he was complaining to Uncle Floyd about Armadillos digging up the course. As we were walking across the course he yelled "there's one of the little SOB's" I looked where he was pointing ands sure enough there went one hopping across the lawn. I didn't even think twice, just took off chasing after it. For such a small animal them little dudes can really move. They do a kind of half jump, half run that really covers the ground but I finally got close enough to jump on him. I was really proud of catching that thing and went running back to Uncle Floyd and his friend to show him off. The golf course gave me a quarter for catching him which made my day a lot brighter but then Uncle Floyd took him and lay him on the ground and then took his pocket knife and stabbed him in the back of the head. That kind of took the fun out of catching him cause I kind of thought I'd take him home for a pet.
I caught about three more before the idea of eating one popped into my pea brain. I knew that people in Texas ate them but when I started asking around I couldn't find anyone around home that had ever eaten one or even had any idea of how to fix one. I have learned several recipes since then but for the first one I thought I'd try it just like you would roast a turtle.
I dug a small fire pit and lined it with rocks. Then I built a good size fire and kept adding wood till the rocks were good and hot. I removed the head, tail, and cut the entire belly off the armadillo and removed the guts. After rinsing him off good in Salt Creek I put some cat tail roots, wild onions and wild garlic in the chest cavity along with salt and pepper. I soaked some cat tail leaves in the creek and wrapped the body completely. After the fire had burned down I scraped most of the ashes out of the pit and lay him on his back on the rocks. I added more wet leaves to cover him and a layer of dirt on top. I left him there for about four hours while I wondered around and did a little squirrel hunting.
I will admit that the meat was not what I expected. It wasn't gamey at all and but letting it cook as long as I did it was falling off the bone tender. The wild onions and garlic added a lot of flavor but I'm not sure the cat tail roots added anything. They weren't bad by themselves but they are never going to take the place of potatoes.
You can do the same thing if you happen to get a hold of a Dillo. You can cut the body completely away from the shell if you want then just lay it back in the shell, add salt, pepper and whatever veggies you want. Wrap the whole thing loosely in tin foil and put it on the grill. I think it comes out the best if you cook it with the lid closed at about 250' for about four hours. If you have a gas grill add a pan of wet wood chips to add a little smoky flavor (I like hickory chips).