Many wild things have landed in my kitchen, but none as challenging as a fox that once came my way. I was reminded of this gustatory adventure, recalling the incident upon which I simmered the uncanny creature, after my daughter, an art student in London, mentioned that foxes run amok all over the British capital. She, so far, has not been tempted either to hunt or cook one, preferring instead to satisfy her carnivorous yearnings with more ordinary meat from Sainsbury’s.
I trust my instincts in the kitchen and, as I said, many untamed things, animal and vegetable, have crossed my counter. Well-honed knife in hand, I’ve considered them all carefully before cooking, from wild mushrooms promised in pictures and by foragers to be innocuous, to stinging nettles, ducks, deer and a pheasant or two still warm from the catch. The porcupine, I just could not bring myself to touch.
A fox unique in its foxiness
Yet the fox was an oddity like none other I’d seen. But then I’d never viewed one in rigor and skinned, and had really only laid eyes on one alive once, as it shot off like a missile from the chicken coop in my Greek-island yard in Ikaria, leaving most of the hens’ feathers unruffled. I am not even sure it was a fox, then; rather, I think it was the fox’s relative, the weasel, what the Ikarians call atsida, which, like a vampire, sucks the blood out of a coop full of hens without consuming a single one. Some appetites are inexplicable.
It was an American friend and a woman to boot who brought the fox to me. She is a hobby huntress with a conscience, or so I thought. Watchful and fast, she is in it more for the chase than the kill, more for the time spent free but focused in the woods than for the feast, if that’s what you can call what ensued. This was out of character for her. But we’re all a jumble of contradictions. Anyway, the fox is traditionally just hunted to ground, as they say, and not killed. Any huntress can relate to that.
Annie, my friend, brought it in one gloriously sunny Thursday morning, a time that surely could have been better spent sucking up rays or diving into a thick newspaper, knees crossed comfortably in some big embrace of a chair than, with, well, a stiff fox and no idea how to handle it. For all my experience in kitchens far and wide, I was clueless, an ingénue, when it came to this curious, wily old chap.
Brining and a stiff belt
Does it need to marinate, and, if so, in what? Wine? A little Greek fire water? Or an inebriating cocktail of the two? If I took a sip or more myself, would I be better inspired? Could I coax the essence out of its bones like some culinary Circe? Would a little alcohol help me realize a tasty repast more fully? Brining is said to do the best job of tenderizing this swift little scavenger’s tough meat. Sea salt and water, or a bucket full of the Aegean might be the most effective way to cure, so to speak, Mr. Fox.
All this and more flashed through my mind in less time than it took me to turn on the laptop and Google “recipe for fox.”
That’s when I had a laugh and knew that some sly imp was having one, too, since the first thing that came up was this:
“This recipe is inspired by my Greek friend’s father who cooked wild mountain goat using this (Ikarian) method. The flavour is extremely similar to fox. So, as you can see, very occasionally — and in the interest of research — I have tasted non-roadkill meat!” from the website Wild Man Wild Food.
Indeed, that afternoon, I took a sip too many of the fox’s firewater, then thanked the mischievous kitchen gods for showing me what every islander from Ikaria knows, and I should have to: When fixing a fox, just treat it like any old goat!
Pan Boiled Fox
Serves 6-8. Borrowed from Wild Man Wild Food
(all measurements approximate)
- In a large saucepan gently brown the onions in olive oil. Add the meat and cook in the onion/oil mix for a few minutes. Add the bay leaves, allspice, peppercorns, salt, ground pepper, juice of one lemon, carrots and a few cups of water to the pan. Cover with a lid and simmer for half an hour stirring occasionally. Add the zucchini. Add more water if necessary. Cook for about another half-hour at a slow but steady boil.
- Beat the eggs and mix with remaining lemon juice. Gradually ladle off all the hot cooking liquor from the pan and carefully beat it in with the eggs.
- Return to pan. Serve with hunks of good rustic bread to soak up the juices.
Note: If you’ve got a goat or have really found yourself at a table with a fox, drink sparingly, for the meal can be unsettling. Greeks drink firewater as a digestive.
Zester Daily contributor Diane Kochilas, the food columnist and restaurant critic for Greece’s largest newspaper, Ta Nea, is also a culinary teacher, restaurant consultant and award-winning cookbook author.
Photo: Fox illustration. Credit: N. Staykon / iStockphoto
Illustration: One pot fox. Credit: Kyveli Zoi Stenos