May. 09, 2012 - Issue #864: The Barbecutionist
Out of the BBQ rut
Exotic meats spice up grilling
They're not the first option that comes to mind for grilling, but exotic meats offer a unique way to experiment on the grill. They're higher on the price scale, but pack interesting flavours that hold up on their own without being dressed up with tons of marinades or spices.
Beef is big business in Alberta, but Edmonton has its own little hideaway where meat lovers can broaden their horizons. Smokin' Iron Farms is a family run business that opened in 2006 and boasts a lengthy list of exotic and not-so-exotic cuts.
"When I opened up my store six years ago, I wanted to be a little bit different than Safeway or Superstore," says manager Barb Kalata, who has been in the meat cutting industry for more than 25 years.
Python, which Kalata describes as having a flavour similar to catfish, is the most expensive of the exotic varieties she stocks, sometimes ringing in at $75 per pound. She says, in general, customers rarely buy an entire pound, opting instead for smaller portions. Alligator has a similar flavour and Kalata says both have a slightly stringy texture. They also have numerous health benefits, such as being low in fat and very high in protein.
Camel, muksox and kangaroo all have a flavour resembling wild game found here at home. Kalata puts ostrich, available ground or as steaks, into this flavour category as well. Ostrich is also considered to be one of the healthiest meats, as it is extremely lean, high in protein and iron, and low in cholesterol.
The standout in terms of unique flavour on the exotic roster is horse, which Kalata said doesn't compare to any regularly consumed meat, due to its overall sweet taste. Its texture also falls into the stringy category.
Since the exotic meats are generally packaged in small portions due to their higher price tags, Kalata advises using them as appetizers, rather than a main course.
The cuts are generally on the thin side, which makes for quick cooking times. Kalata advises placing the meat directly on the grill and only cooking each side for a couple of minutes before flipping. She says exotic meats are served best when cooked to medium, as they get too tough when well done.
"It's fun, especially if you have a bunch of company over. Serve them these little appetizers and it's a hit," she says, adding people shouldn't be afraid of branching out in their meat choices, as she's never had a bad comment about them.
For those who aren't quite ready to dig into kangaroo or python, rabbit, quail, pheasant, venison or bison are good alternatives to standard beef or chicken.
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