Red eyes, fragile yellow-tipped wings, and mating calls that drown out all other summer noise: Cicadas are what’s for dinner.
After hibernating for 17 years, billions of loud-ass insects that are known as Brood XIII will swarm their way across Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois this summer. They don’t bite, sting, or otherwise hurt humans in any way, and certain animals actually find them to be quite tasty. The idea that birds and squirrels look hungrily on cicadas as an acceptable nosh isn’t all that surprising, but, according to the MSNBC piece, dogs really like them as well.
‘They’re going to have quite a meal. It’s going to be like Thanksgiving for them,’ said Tom Tiddens, supervisor for plant health care at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
You know what? They aren’t the only ones. David Hammond writes for the Food Chain, a blog attached to the Chicago Reader, and if you want to know how to whip up your own cicada-based meal, he’s the one to ask.
In his piece “Stalking the Wild Cicada—and Cooking Him,” Hammond carefully explains what you should be thinking about when considering snacking on cicadas. First off, you need to get your hands on “the right bug.” Hammond says:
I try to snag the little guys coming right out of the ground. The youngest of any breed is usually the most tender (think veal, suckling pig, etc.), and the younger cicadas have a softer exoskeleton. Once the cicada hits a tree, it begins to transform into a larger, winged creature; to eat these, you have to clip the wings and they look a lot less appealing (though I realize to many this is a fine distinction).
Young, local, free-range cicadas: check. Do you think they’re organic?
Next, Hammond explains the various ways of cooking the little buggers and warns that since cicadas are arthropods, you shouldn’t eat them if you have a shellfish allergy. One cooking method is to treat them like minuscule lobster or crab and parboil them until they turn slightly red, but, as with many things, frying seems to be a tastier option.
We drop the cicadas into tempura batter (just rice flour, egg, and water) and fry the creatures. [My wife] Carolyn rolls them with a little steamed carrot, chive, umeboshi paste, wasabi, and soy (the critters need a little salt). In nori rolls, the bugs look great, and they appeal to people because the nori roll is a familiar preparation and the insect is hidden inside.
But if you want to be literal about it, Hammond suggests you do what his friend does and make a version of “ants on a log.” Hammond’s pal Catherine Lambrecht smears endive spears with chèvre and sticks a bug on top of the fresh goat cheese. According to Hammond, “[t]he cheese provides the fatty base for the leaner cicada.”
OK, so now you know how to cook and serve the bugs, but what do they taste like? Well, Hammond thinks the cacophonous critter “has notes of peanut butter” and because of this, he decided to do the other version of “ants on a log” and combined the bug with blueberry preserves and a stick of celery.
So … not chicken?