Another Day in Poe's Kitchen at The Rattlesnake

Chef Brian Poe shows you the world in the back of the house.

Snake, Rattle and Roll: Serrano-Infused Rattlesnake Cakes with Mango-Jalapeño Puree

Walking into the kitchen at the Rattlesnake was one of my riskiest career moves. Still is…Not because I have to deal with the Rattlesnake, capital R, but because I have to deal with the rattlesnake—small r. It comes special delivery from Arizona via Jersey.

No, no, it’s not live. Its head has been removed; decapitation is the first step of “harvesting” rattlesnake, because there’s some evidence that the head can still strike for up to two hours after its removal. Makes your skin crawl a little, doesn’t it? Mine too, but don’t worry, it gets better…in fact, it gets delicious!

rattlesnake1

Early on I did a bit of polling to see what people wanted out of the Rattlesnake to make sure Poe’s Kitchen reflected that. The consistent answer: “This place would be a lot cooler if it actually served rattlesnake.” Passersby on Boylston would regularly ask the doorman: “Do you guys serve rattlesnake?” I had to get my hands on some—and we had to do with it what we try to do with everything else on the menu: ensure it’s of excellent quality and prepare it simply so that the goodness comes through.

Back in Arizona at the Pinon Grill, I served rattlesnake, but it came already ground up, so all I had to do was mix it in with other ingredients. I searched for my old purveyor, but for some reason I could not find him. It took me three months to even locate the product again—and I mean, I looked five times a day the whole time.  When my friend Lance from Fossil Farms finally came through for me, he told me that the reason I couldn’t locate anything online was because the gentleman that hunted and gathered the snakes was bitten—and therefore out of commission for a while!

So when the first delivery arrived, I wanted to be the guy to open the box. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, after dreaming for months about what I would do with it. I cut the box open and dug through the Styrofoam. Then suddenly I felt it—and saw it. Instantly I jumped! Frozen on the bone and perfectly coiled in a clear Cry-o-vac bag, it naturally gets the adrenaline going. In other words, I freaked out for a minute.

It’s on the prep table, though, that snake becomes the most bizarre thing I’ve ever cooked. I had decided to marinate the snake in buttermilk and cilantro for 24 hours. The next day I pulled it from the marinade to check it and suddenly, half the body moved. It was because of the way it was attached to the bone, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was alive—or the pain in the back of my neck from freezing up with fear!

We cooked the snake at a very low simmer for about an hour in a fresh batch of buttermilk, adding cilantro as it cooled so the flavors would infuse, then spent another hour cleaning the meat from the multitude of bones with a fork. The best way, we agreed, to reduce the shocks I’d gotten during prep was to make rattlesnake cakes.

I was a little reluctant when I put the dish on the Unleashed menu—was it too weird?  Would anyone order it?  So I offered it as a one-ounce taster—and we sold out in three days! Now we sell roughly 70 orders a week (that’s about 2.5 snakes worth!) This past week, we sold out on Thursday night around 9 pm.  We prepared more for Friday-night service and within two hours we sold out again! Tables on the roof deck were ordering six at a time, all on one plate. I’ve finally put the cakes on the regular menu due to the high demand. So get here early, because these snakes move fast! 

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Serrano Chile–Infused Rattlesnake Cakes with Mango-Jalapeño Puree

Makes about 15. Can be made with crab instead of snake if desired.

For the cakes:
2 lbs. rattlesnake (or lump crab)
1 each red, green, and yellow bell pepper, diced fine
2 serrano chiles, diced fine
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 c. red onion, diced fine
1 c. Ritz cracker crumbs
2 eggs
1 t. Habañero Tabasco

Combine all ingredients well and form into 2 oz. cakes. Reserve in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

For the mango-jalapeño puree:
4 mangos, peeled and deseeded
1/2 t. garlic
1/2 t. shallots
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed
2 jalapeños, chopped and seeded
1/2 c. hazelnut oil, or 2 t. fresh hazelnut if available
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white wine (I suggest a J. Lohr–style riesling)
1/4 c. lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Reserve.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the base of a large, hot sauté pan with a small amount of olive oil. Sear the cakes for about 1 min. per side, then place in the oven for about 8 min. more.

On the base of a large platter, pour the puree, then place the cakes on top and drizzle a bit more sauce over them. Now you’re ready to snake, rattle and roll!

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2 Comments»

  Calvin Bridgeforth wrote @

Hey can i order some to be shipped to me out -of town

  poeskitchen wrote @

I get rattlesnake from fossilfarms.com…


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