Take a good long look at these hissing cockroaches. What words come to mind? Meaty? Juicy? Downright succulent?
That's what chef Gene Rurka thinks. And he'd like you to give them a try.
Rurka is serving hissing cockroaches Saturday night at the annual dinner held at the famed Explorers Club in New York City. The black-tie dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria will draw an eclectic mix of modern-day adventurers and their wealthy patrons. Members have walked on the surface of the moon, as well as explored the ocean's deepest trenches, Rurka told The Times.
If you were to randomly throw a pebble across the dining room tonight, there's a good chance you'd hit someone who has scaled Mount Everest once, if not twice.
That kind of crowd puts a lot of pressure on a chef. But Rurka -- who raises his own livestock outside Manhattan and is dedicated to finding fare that is both sustainably raised as well as suitably exotic -- loves the challenge.
Tonight's diners will enjoy python patties with applewood smoked bacon in addition to dishes that highlight stir-fried jellyfish, scorpions, alligator and kangaroo.
But it's the starter-- the appetizer -- that is likely to be the showstopper. It will feature Madagascar hissing cockroaches that Rurka has raised himself.
The roaches dined on a diet fit for a cockroach king: Bananas, apples, oranges and cornmeal.
When it came time to "dispatch them," Rurka used a clever method that ensures that the roaches will look like they they're still gloriously alive when they arrive on the plate. Rurka freezes them to death, then soaks them in whiskey to bring them back to room temperature. And then he ever-so-gently injects them with Tasmanian leatherwood honey and a bit of soy sauce for a sweet-salty kick.
"If I can, I am going to add a hint of citrus," he said.
Kinda makes your mouth water, doesn't it?
This is the food of the future, Rurka says. The world's population is exploding, and the Earth's resources grow more limited with each passing day. Isn't it time to stop turning up our noses at the protein-packed insect, he asks? Besides, there are plenty of places in the world where insects already have a home on the dinner plate.
Rurka envisions a day when hissing cockroaches are raised in the warm, humid climates of Florida and Texas as delicacies. Why not raise crickets, scorpions, and tarantulas as well?
The trick is in the presentation, he said. "Remember, lobsters are the cockroaches of the sea, and today we savor lobster. You get the tongue at a Manhattan deli, and it's $28 without tax and gratuity. If you're exposed to something in a fashion that doesn't scare you, you will embrace it."