Adding variety to your holiday dinner

MINOOKA – Planning that big holiday dinner can be stressful.

With the turkey or ham as the main dish, the mashed potatoes, candied yams, carrots and green bean casserole, adding variety to the meal can be a challenge.

But what if you could wow your holiday visitors with something they may have never had before?

Robert Degen, who owns The Shrimp Barn in Minooka with his wife, has just the dish for that – rattlesnake chili. Yes, with rattlesnake meat. And, if you are worried about how to get the meat, don’t fret. He gets his just a short drive away, from Czimer’s Game and Seafood, 13136 W. 159th St., in Homer Glen.

Making the chili should be stress-free too, as it is one of those dishes that you can throw all the ingredients in a pot and forget about it.

Here is what you will need:

2 pounds rattlesnake meat
2 14-ounce cans dark red kidney beans
1 14-ounce can garlic diced tomatoes
1 14-ounce can garlic basil diced tomatoes
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 whole green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1⁄3 cup chili powder
1-½ tbs salt
2 tbs. chopped garlic
1 tbs red pepper (optional)
½ tbs. paprika
½ tbs. cumin
½ tbs. dried onion or onion powder
1 14-ounce can water

Soak rattlesnake meat overnight in 4 cups cold water and 3 tablespoons salt. Water must cover rattlesnake meat. Take snake out of water. Rinse. Boil meat in a pot with water until fork can easily puncture meat. Remove rattlesnake from water and set aside to cool. When cooled, pull meat from bone until all meat is off bones and ribcage. Throw all ingredients in one pot uncovered. Let it come to a boil, stir occasionally. Reduce to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, serve with cold, cooked macaroni noodles and sour cream.

The rattlesnake chili has been a hit at the Minooka restaurant.

“I almost sold out in three days,” Degen said. “Everyone does state that it tastes like chicken.”

He has done rattlesnake chili in the past as a chef in a different restaurant.

“I thought it would be really different, something really unique that people have not done before,” he said. “It’s something you can cross off your bucket list.”

And if the idea of rattlesnake chili is too intimidating for you, Degen has a second solution – cranberry-pineapple fritters:

1 14 ounce can whole cranberries
1 14 ounce can diced pineapples
6 cups all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons salt
12 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 whole eggs
2 splashes vanilla extract

Mix all liquids together until eggs are fully beaten. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and add two cans of fruit to the mixture. Fold together until the consistency of pancake batter.

Heat oil in a saucepan or fryer to 350 degrees. Using a 3-ounce scoop, place ball of dough into oil for 15 second. Turn in 15 seconds if in a saucepan and cook an additional 15 seconds or until golden brown.

Yields about 60 fritters.