Marinate the woodchuck, brown it, braise in stock, remove meat from the bones, then sweat some diced vegetables, add back the meat and cooking liquid, along with some rice, season it up, and voila. Have some good bread around, you're going to want to wipe the bowl clean.
Course: Main Course, Soup
Keyword: Groundhog, Small game, Stew, Woodchuck
One roughly 2-3 lb groundhogskinned, gutted, rinsed and quartered (see photo above)
3cupsdry white wine
1bulb of garliccloves lightly crushed with the back of a knife
1large sprig rosemaryleaves torn off the branch
a small handful of fresh thyme sprigsroughly 6-7
2fresh bay leavesoptional
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4cupblended olive oilor neutral vegetable oil
For the Groundhog Stew
3cupsmixed vegetablesdiced 1/4 inch (I used a mix of carrots, potatoes, onion, celery and fennel)
1large tomatoBottom scored, blanched in boiling water for a few seconds, then cooled, seeded and chopped.
3qts chicken stockpreferably homemade
4ouncessmoked pork belly or slab bacondiced 1/4 inch
1/4cupwild rice flourfor dredging the woodchuck, optional
Sliced scallions1/4 inch, tender white and green parts only, optional
The night before hand, trim the groundhog pieces of as much visible fat as possible, then season liberally with salt and pepper, toss with the garlic cl0ves, oil, thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary. Put the seasoned groundhog pieces in a wide dish or casserole and pour over the wine. Allow the woodchuck to sit overnight or at least for 4-5 hours, turn it around in the juices now and then if you have time.
Cut the corn from the cob, then cut the cobb into 2 inch slices and reserve both separately.
To prepare the stew, render out the fat from the bacon in a wide 10 inch braising pan, remove the bacon and reserve, leave the fat in the pan.
Browning and Building the Stew
Remove the groundhog pieces from their marinade, pat dry and remove any rogue herbs or pieces of garlic. Toss with the wild rice flour, then brown on medium high heat in the bacon fat. Pour off the spent fat from the pan, deglaze the pan with the sherry, reduce by half, then add the stock, corn cob, cover the pan and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
If you have time, skim the albumen and fat that rise to the surface of the pan occasionally as it makes a cleaner tasting stew. Simmer the groundhog gently for 1.5 hours, or until the meat can be picked from the bones.
Meanwhile, cook the wild rice in the chicken stock until just done, then strain out the rice and lay out on a plate or cookie sheet to cool. Reserve the wild rice liquid to add to the stew. It adds really good flavor, and that's why you're cooking the rice in chicken stock in the first place.
Remove the woodchuck pieces and cool, then pick the meat from the bones, give it a rough chop, and reserve. You should have about 2.5 cups of meat.
Remove the stock from the pan and reserve then strain it. You should have about 1 qts of liquid.
Wipe the pan, then melt the butter and add the diced vegetables, bacon and the garlic. Sweat the mixture until it's well cooked, and the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes, then add the reserved woodchuck liquid, tomato, wild rice liquid and simmer for 15 minutes more.
Finally, add the woodchuck meat, corn kernels, and wild rice. Season the stew with salt to taste, then serve immediately with some Tobasco on the side. If not serving, chill immediately, transfer to a labeled, dated container and reserve until needed.
You could substitute another small creature here — rabbit, turtle, duck or goose legs would all be great. There are probably some other little creatures I don't know of that would be good too.