Püthök - Carcass as Crockery (/py.'θøk̚/)
[Content advisory: Includes graphic descriptions and images of animal butchering and meat preparation.]
I must admit that from the travelogues I'd read, this püthök was a grotesque sight in my mind's eye. Upon observing the process for myself, however, I better understand both its practicality and it surprisingly palatable results. Disembowling a goat and then stuffing hot rocks into its cavities would still not be my preferred method for cooking one, but the method is undeniably effective in such a remote land with such limited resources to call upon.[Content advisory: Includes graphic descriptions and images of animal butchering and meat preparation.] Relatively few travelers from the Continent's centers of civilization visit the Continent's inner steppes. Therefore, even fewer are prepared for their first encounter with püthök, a preparation of goat or game meat that is popular in the steppes and scarcely anywhere else. Not only is the very concept of püthök absurd to many outsiders—for they would hardly think to cut a carcass open and then cook it from the inside—but the actual process of preparation, which often includes the breaking of the carcass's legs so as to deglove it and fill it with searing-hot stones more easily, is simply more than most outsiders can stomach. "Their loss," local nomads are inclined to say. Indeed, the seared, fat-streaked meat on the outside and the steamy stew within evoke nostalgia and arouse strong appetites in those who've already given the dish a fair chance, such that those who've grown up with püthök prefer it to other methods of roasting a medium-sized mammal. Further, increasing seasonal variation in steppe diets has led to püthök becoming a popular, nostalgia-inducing dish for multiple seasonal festivals.- From a journal kept by Saffiya an'Winari, 4130 HE.
ProcessGloving and deboning a carcass, then carefully inserting hot rocks into the cavity, is a challenging cooking method to learn but not ultimately a labor-intensive or resource-intensive one. The typical process is as follows:
- Rocks of suitable sizes and shapes are heated in a fire pit.
- To prepare the carcass, cut the skin around the neck so much of the flesh can be pulled down. You can also remove some of the meat during this stage to reinsert it later.
- Break the legs at the knees, if needed, to remove the thigh bones.
- Remove the internal organs. The liver and kidneys can be reinserted or cooked separately; other organs such as the lungs, stomach, and intestines are more complex to clean and prepare. These must be cooked separately if at all.
- Insert relatively small heated rocks into the upper legs and the larger ones into the main cavity. Also insert any spare meat, salt, vegetables, and seasonings.
- Sear the carcass over a firepit or other large, open flame. This both removes the fur (with the help of a knife) and cooks the carcass more thoroughly.