Photo by Johnny Miller; Food styling by Roscoe Betsill
This one-pot Cajun recipe is perfect for gator tail meat—or just about any other wild game in your freezer.
The booming popularity of alligator hunting, sparked by reality shows like the History Channel’s Swamp People, is easy to understand: It’s an exotic blast of adrenaline. But there’s a culinary upside as well, with gator boasting a delicate light-pink meat that, to me, falls somewhere between veal and wild turkey. Simmering gator meat in sauce piquante—a gumbo base enlivened with tomatoes—is a classic Louisiana treatment, but don’t skip this if you’re not a gator hunter. Almost any wild game will thrive in this pot.
Alligator Sauce Piquante
2 lb. alligator tail meat (or other game), cut into 1-inch chunks
3⁄4 cup vegetable oil
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced green bell pepper
3 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1 15-oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 1⁄2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups dry white wine
2 bay leaves
1⁄2 tsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
1⁄4 cup chopped parsley
1⁄2 cup chopped scallions
Cooked rice, for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Make the roux: Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or other large heavy pot. Add the flour a little at a time, whisking to incorporate. Ditch the whisk, and stir very frequently with a wooden spoon as the mixture darkens from ivory to beige. When the mixture is caramel-colored, start stirring constantly, and continue cooking until the mixture is a rich chocolate brown. The entire process will take about 20 minutes.
Add the alligator meat and the onion, celery, and bell pepper, raise the heat to medium-high, and stir vigorously to coat the meat and vegetables with the roux, scraping the bottom. Stirring frequently, sauté the mixture for about 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. In the meantime, bring the chicken stock to a simmer in another pot. Add the garlic to the vegetables, and sauté for about 2 minutes, then add the stewed tomatoes. Stir for a minute, to incorporate, then add the hot chicken stock and wine. Add the bay leaves, thyme, and Cajun seasoning, and bring to a simmer.
Decrease the heat to low, and simmer uncovered for about 11⁄2 to 2 hours, or until the alligator meat is very tender and the mixture has thickened to a stewlike consistency. (Check the simmering pot periodically, and add more stock or water to the mixture if it seems too thick.)
When ready to serve, add the parsley and stir to combine. Taste for seasonings, adding salt and pepper as needed and, if desired, some squirts of hot sauce. Ladle into serving bowls over a scoop of hot rice, and sprinkle the scallions over the top. Serves 6
In Louisiana, you’re likely to find a cold bottle of beer sitting next to this dish. In fact, Bayou Teche Brewing, a microbrewery in tiny Arnaudville, La., just released a beer explicitly designed to accompany this dish. It’s called Cocodrie (Cajun French for alligator), and it’s a Belgian tripel IPA that’s loaded with hops and crafted with pilsner malt for a sumptuous finish that can withstand the spicy growl of sauce piquante. For wine, consider Beaujolais nouveau or any young, unoaked, low-alcohol red.