Located at 92 Kirkland Street in Cambridge Massachusetts, Savenor’s market has been suppling customers with fresh cuts of meat, exotic game and gourmet items since 1939. Although they also offer cheeses, pasta and various groceries, Savenor’s is at heart, a neighborhood butcher shop.
The Cambridge store is perhaps best known for suppling Julia Child with items to use on The French Chef, with Jack Savenor even appearing on the show.
You’d be hard pressed to locate a market (at least in the Boston area) with a better selection of “hard to find” meats.
On our last visit, we found everything from Black Bear and elk to frog’s legs and python. We left with two types of meat that we hadn’t tried before, iguana on the bone and boneless kangaroo loin.
We figured the iguana would be good in a stew, preferably one with a good amount of heat. While scouring the internet for a recipe, we kept coming across the same recipe, repeatedly. Who knows where this recipe came from, but everyone seems to claim it as their own. Type “iguana stew” into your search engine, you’ll see what we’re talking about very quickly.
We finally settled on this recipe for Iguana in Curry Sauce mostly because it wasn’t the same exact recipe we kept stumbling across. Also, anything archived from Geocities might as well be ancient history in internet terms, so its got that going for it.
Since our Iggy was pre-skinned, we chopped what we assumed to be the tail (perhaps the back?) Into roughly bite-sized pieces and soaked them in a mixture of salt, water and 5 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice for about a half hour. The bones are tougher to cut through than you might think, finding the joints between the vertebrae is critical. We drained the chunks of meat, dried them with paper towel and seasoned generously with salt and pepper.
Iguana meat is light pink, with the occasional white swirl and really resembles pork. We heated two Tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large stainless skillet over medium high heat and added three cloves of chopped garlic and a Tablespoon of curry powder. Cook for approximately one minute, stirring to prevent the garlic from burning. Next, we added the iguana meat. The recipe calls for one iguana, whatever that is. We only had a half pound of meat, so we halved most of the ingredients, adding one chopped tomato and half of an onion, chopped.
After quickly combining these ingredients, we poured in a quarter cup of water, the leaves from a stalk of celery, a diced jalapeño pepper and one crushed chicken bouillon cube.
Once everything was bubbling, we turned down the heat, letting everything simmer for a half hour or so.
We served the stew on a bed of white rice. Contrary to the popular saying, it didn’t really taste like chicken. Not only does iguana look like pork, the meat also has a similar flavor and texture. The iguana was a tad dry, but the thin layer of fat near the skin added a bit of a gelatinous quality. The meat was surprisingly mild, with just a hint of a wild tang to remind you that you were not eating pork. The texture was firm, and almost stringy but not rubbery. Celery leaves bring an aromatic flavor, while the spice of the curry and jalapeño heat help balance with the sharp onion flavor in the sauce. Generally, the iguana was far less strange than expected, the only real down side was the low meat-to-bone ratio, making you work hard for you next bite.
Boneless kangaroo loin is very lean, with a dark berry-red color and texture that reminds you of venison with a bit of liver thrown in.
The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia has a ton of good information about kangaroo meat, including a large selection of recipes. After sorting through them, we went with the recipe for Grilled Loin of Kangaroo with Fig and Onion. The original recipe was in metric, and called for 1.5 kilograms (about 3lb, 5 ounces). We only had a half pound of meat, so we had to do quite a bit of adjusting and converting, but we were happy with the results.
To make the marinade, we combined a quarter cup of chopped onion, a teaspoon of curry powder, a teaspoon of French mustard, one and a half teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, a garlic clove and three tablespoons of oil. The recipe also calls for using fig syrup. While we didn’t have any fig syrup, we did have some fig jam, and went with three tablespoons of it.
Everything was run through a food processor until well mixed and fairly smooth. Using this mixture, we marinated the kangaroo in the fridge for two hours. Once the meat was ready, we removed it from the refrigerator, scraped away most of the marinade and heated a cast iron pan to medium high with about a tablespoon of oil.
The kangaroo was seared quickly, just a couple minutes per side, until it had a good char.
Because it has so little fat, kangaroo should not be cooked much more than medium-rare or it will dry out and become tough. After letting the meat rest, we sliced it and served it with a bit of reserved marinade.
The ‘roo came out medium-rare, with a rich red interior and a crusty charred exterior. The meat had a dense yet tender texture with taste similar to venison, but with less mineral flavor. Surprisingly, the kangaroo had a flavor somewhere between the gaminess of venison and the meaty sweetness of elk, but perhaps closer to the beef end of the spectrum. Combined with the sweet, tart and earthy sauce/ marinade, it was a very tasty hunk of beast. The acidic sauce provides a fresh hit of brightness to offset the deep meaty flavors, while the fig adds a bit of roundness that helps meld the flavors. If you like the flavor of venison or elk, you’ll probably love kangaroo. It has a mild, yet meaty flavor that has its own flavor without coming across as excessively funky.
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