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!


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! 


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!



  Calvin Bridgeforth wrote @

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

  poeskitchen wrote @

I get rattlesnake from…

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