It’s almost time for that cute furry creature with the fat cheeks and the big butt to wake up and emerge from that hole in the ground. No, I’m not talking about picking up my next date, although my girlfriend does bear a strong resemblance to Puxatawney Phil, and that’s the reason I often get Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day mixed up. Not this year.
During the early nineteenth century a bunch of bored villagers with the winter blahs in Pennsylvania decided to come up with a festival to celebrate the imminent arrival of spring. They originally tabbed a black bear to be the honored guest, and they gathered around the opening to the bear’s cave to see if he would see his shadow. But the bear, hungry and cranky after a long winter’s slumber would emerge from his den and become frightened and confused. The majestic beast would then chase the townspeople and eat any of them he could catch. This tradition only lasted a few years before the villagers decided to regroup and opted for the more timid groundhog instead to be the spokesperson for this annual celebration.
Now the world watches and waits for the giant rodent to appear on February2 and if he sees his shadow there is six more weeks of winter. Actually, if you do the math Spring officially arrives on March 20, so give or take a few days; it’s going to happen anyway.
Planning a menu to celebrate Groundhog Day is a little easier than you may think.
This year I’ve opted to throw in a little Caribbean influence to spice things up. It’s called Barbacoa, not to be confused with the Jane Fonda picture, “Barbarella”. She was hot in that movie. Anyway, Barbacoa is Caribbean comfort food so this year let’s go with groundhog cheeks tacos. As you know, when cooking I like to use the whole animal, from cheeks to butt cheeks.
Everybody knows that in any animal or fish, the cheek meat is the tastiest. Cheeks in the groundhog are extremely fatty, so ask your butcher to trim as much fat off as possible when purchasing your groundhog.
That’s it, it’s that simple, so get out the old crock-pot and get to work before spring gets here.
Groundhog Cheeks Barbacoa
2-3 Lbs. Groundhog Cheek Meat
1 Bunch Cilantro, Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, Smashed
1 Onion, Chopped
1 Tbs. Allspice
Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper
3 Cups Water
In the food processor combine 1 cup of water with the cilantro, garlic and onion. Season. Marinate the cheeks in the mixture for 1 hour.
Throw everything in the crock-pot, add the rest of the water and set on low. Cook for 8-10 hours.
Load up your tacos with the meat and top with tomatoes, chopped onions, jalapenos, shredded cheese, sliced avocado and serve.
Happy Groundhog Day everybody.