Other Names:Gravedigger, Hoover hog, nine-banded armadillo, tatú (Brazil), Texas armadillo.
General Description:Armadillos (Dasypus novemcinctus) are mammals, though their backs are covered by a bony shell. Armadillo, which means “small armored thing,” was given its name by Spanish conquistadors. The Aztec name was azotochtli, which means “turtle-rabbit.” Armadillos originated in South America and belong to the same family as the sloth and anteater. They are easily captured, and they are eaten by people from Mexico to Argentina and in parts of Texas. During the Depression in Texas, armadillo was popularized under the name Hoover hog. Armadillos are sometimes called “gravediggers,” especially in the South, because of their inclination to dig in soft dirt (such as a freshly dug grave) while searching for insects to eat.
The armadillo is the only animal aside from humans known to carry leprosy. For this reason it is illegal to sell a live armadillo in Texas. Armadillo is delicious pan-fried in butter, but it also takes well to spicy preparations. In Brazil, armadillo is seasoned with parsley. Armadillo sausages flavored with coriander, basil, bay leaves, garlic, and nutmeg are also common. Barbecued armadillo and armadillo chili are popular foods at various festivals in parts of Texas, Arkansas, and the southeastern United States.
Characteristics:Armadillos have tasty meat that is light in color, finely grained, and tender with generous amounts of fat. When cooked, armadillo tastes rich and porky.
How to Choose:Armadillos are not sold commercially in America. They have long been considered a legitimate game animal in Mexico, and the practice of eating armadillos was adopted by residents of south Texas when the animals migrated there. Armadillos are moderate in size, up to 2 feet (60 cm) long. Moist-heat cooking methods are recommended for the less tender, older animals. Though armadillo is notorious as roadkill, do not get your armadillo this way. Any wild animal found already dead is unsafe to eat.
Amount to Buy:Allow 1/2 to 3/4 pound of bone-in armadillo per person.
Storage:Store in the refrigerator up to 2 days before cooking.
- Remove the glands from the legs and back of the armadillo, then clean and cut into serving pieces.
- Brown in a little oil, covered, until light brown. Stir in enough flour to absorb the oil. Season as desired.
- Add a small amount of water, barbecue sauce, or chopped tomatoes. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until fork tender.
- Always use rubber gloves when handling raw arma-dillo, because it can carry leprosy.
Flavor Affinities:Bacon, barbecue sauce, basil, chili powder, cilantro, garlic, nutmeg, onions, red wine, shallots, tomatoes.
from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com