It has become evident to me that I have failed to deliver recipes in one small, though perhaps quite important, sliver of culinary repertoire.
Over the past six nights, we have received no fewer than six fresh mice, each in a state just a bit more prepared to hit the frying pan than the previous night.
There’s no question my cat is just doing his duty. (He must be wary of the economy.) But I’ve failed to do my part, it seems.
In the past, Jackson has been happy to provide us with fresh mousemeat on a regular basis. He normally stores it for us it in its natural casing, still and unfileted, in the coldest part of the bathtub.
Recently, though, it’s become plain to him that we don’t appear to trust him on freshness. So instead of simply offering his catch at our porcelain alter, he’s started bringing us in on the actual hunt, parading his prey around beneath our feet so we can hear its blood-curdling squeaks before it dies.
We didn’t appreciate that enough, so in the last day or two, he’s begun slicing into the mice, if not for fun, then to demonstrate how delicious they must be. One time, were presented with half a mouse (the back half, if you must know). Then, a full mouse, with one thin claw’s slice up its belly. (I put the camera away at that point.)
Maybe Jackson wanted to show us that mice are inherently lean creatures, needing, per the beef industry, a few days’ fattening on great grains before slaughter. That’s it. He wants us to keep the mice in the bathtub and feed them Grape Nuts.
I think I get the general picture. I am not sufficiently schooled in the practice of cooking mousemeat. He’s a whole beast sort of cat, this Jackson of mine, and I know so little about mouse fatting, cleaning, prepping, and cooking that he’s determined to educate.
This morning, Jack took up his illegal post on the counter overlooking the stove, and announced the menu that would teach me to cook a mouse.
All Hallow’s Eve will bring us a mouse in five courses – assuming, of course, that we start with one small nearly dead grey mouse.
After an efficient skinning, which Jackson has proven himself quite capable of already, I’ll apparently be marinating the front legs in olive oil, rosemary, and red wine for grilled mouse leg lollipops. (Turn them with tweezers, he told me, because full-size tongs will bruise the meat.) The back legs will be sliced across the bone and braised for mousso buco; the hindquarter meat shall be frozen for next week, when we can then very thinly slice it for Kung Fu Mouse. (This stir-fry can only be made with the meat of the most ferocious victim.)
The tenderloins should be threaded off the spine with a piece of dental floss, butterflied with a scalpel, pounded thin (by him) and stuffed with a tuna fish mousse – his take on vitello tonnato.
But oh, he’s gotten ahead of himself. Jackson says he forgot all about the braised mouse cheek tower. The braised mouse cheek tower. His mentor, a larger orange cat named Murray, once taught him to pull the pencil eraser out of the end of a sturdy number 2 and use the thin metal edge to punch the cheek meat right out. Murray braised the little guanciales into submission and stacked them up with tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant—a version he called mousatouille, of course. But Jackson envisioned a more avante garde presentation, something with whisker and mouseclaw foam, perhaps, or maybe a mouse pho, made with the shredded cheek meat, floating in a carcass consommé.
He’s quite the gourmand, this cat. I appreciate it. (And since his name was Hunter at the shelter, I sort of asked for it.)
But good God. Isn’t it time for mouse season to end? How big does a bell have to be before it warns those creatures that a cat is coming?