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Cicadas, anyone?

Cicadas, anyone?
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  • Post #211 - June 4th, 2024, 7:13 am
    Post #211 - June 4th, 2024, 7:13 am Post #211 - June 4th, 2024, 7:13 am


    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #212 - June 4th, 2024, 11:50 am
    Post #212 - June 4th, 2024, 11:50 am Post #212 - June 4th, 2024, 11:50 am
    I've been surprised how quiet this thread has been after all the fanfare around the 2007 brood. Where's the entomophagists at?!?!

    Raises hand

    I had a not great experience eating an annual cicada years back. My friends and I were doing a shrimp boil on a balmy late summer eve, when a big green dogday harvest fly landed on a nearby table. "Shrimp of the woods" I declared (before I knew about the scrumptious mushroom of the same name.) It seemed like a no brainer to toss the cicada in the boil. Chomping through its tough exoskeleton and the attending shrapnel of its legs and wings, I was treated to a burst of bitter bile-like ooze. No amount of Zatarain's could mask that acrid flavor.

    I'm a pretty dedicated bug eater, I love me some chapulines, have prepared my own, even. I've eaten crickets, ants, bamboo caterpillars at Sticky Rice, jarred Korean silkworm pupae (gross.) So faced with this spring's magicicada emergence, I knew I'd have to buck up and give them another go.

    I was intrigued by the chatter upthread about tenerals, the freshly molted nymph stage, before the chitin of the adult cicada hardens – soft shelled cicadas, if you will. After two weeks on the hunt, I was kinda ready to throw in the towel – I had only spotted the ghostly white emergents in my neighbor's yard early in the morning and only a few at a time. And while cicadas in all forms are not the most appetizing-looking critters, there was something about the under-developed wings and grub-like ivory look of the soft shells that made me a bit queasy.

    Then last Friday I was enjoying a beer in the yard at dusk and spotted a major emergence of larvae crawling up every vertical surface in sight within a several yard radius around an old oak. By nightfall they were molting and I was able to collect a few dozen tenerals. Maybe it was the double IPA, but I quickly got over my trepidation and plucked them from their shells. Though docile while molting, the suckers got pretty squirmy in a deli container. They even made a faint squeaking sound. My wife and mother-in-law were none the wiser glued to Bridgerton in the other room.

    First step was a quick blanch, following most recipes I had consulted. This worked well for me, since I intended to serve them two days later at my son's 4th birthday party and I imagined freshly molted cicada might have a short shelf life. To my surprise, the par-boiled cicadas had a pleasant, savory aroma.

    I mostly documented the whole process as video, which is beyond my pay grade to upload here, so thanks for your patience with my written descriptions.

    On cook day, I had tinkering to do. I knew that I wanted to prepare and serve them as straightforwardly as possible. My first instinct was to deep fry them as is, a la chapulines, and season simply. I tried one this way and it sputtered quite a bit in the oil, its wings animated in deep-fried zombie flight. I gave it a few minutes, browning around the edges. It was too moist and the skin too delicate to properly crisp. The flavor was mild and downright edible though!

    So I lightly tossed them in a bit of flour seasoned with s&p and fried in batches for about 3-4 minutes each until the breading had a tint of gold.


    I hadn't warned my guests that I was serving them, so a shocking addition to the birthday snack spread they made. 2/3 of the grown ups sampled them (my side of the family haha) and everyone was pleasantly surprised how mellow they were. My mom compared them to calamari, which the lightly breaded prep certainly suggested. A comparison to soft shelled crab is apt, but mainly in the texture of the taught chewiness of the skin. Compared to soft shelled crab, the textures were more uniform and the flavor was much more low key, with mild umami and a grassy finish I would liken to olive oil (they were fried in fresh canola, so I believe the flavor was from the bugs themselves.)

    Probably the most joyful aspect of the entomophagy was how the four-year old birthday boy snarfed them down with relish! And this is a kid who only eats bread, rice, and fruit. Older brother was a bit more cautious, nervously nibbling one with a grimace.

    It seems like the emergence from the ground is giving way to high decibel fornicating in the trees. But given the opportunity I might just fry up another batch of soft-shelled cicadas. Or wait until 2041...
  • Post #213 - June 5th, 2024, 8:11 am
    Post #213 - June 5th, 2024, 8:11 am Post #213 - June 5th, 2024, 8:11 am
    Jefe- I love that you added this to the buffet menu at a family party and didn't get too much pushback!