Yes, you read that right. ‘Gator tail. Brandan reaches for the stars when it comes to creative choices for dinner. I thought I had a source for ‘gator tail too – I saw a vendor at the Firewheel Four Seasons Farmers Market a few weeks ago selling all sorts of Gulf seafood, including alligator tail. However, when we arrived this morning, that vendor was nowhere to be found. Brandan and I made plans to come up with an alternative solution – we planned to visit a fish market and find some sort of seafood.
Later in the day, Brandan, my husband, and I visited Captain Dave’s Seafood Market in Plano and looked around. We had nearly decided on crab legs when lo and behold, my husband noticed that ‘gator tail was on their board. I inquired, and they had some in stock! We happily purchased it and hurried home to start our meal, which also included grilled corn and dirty rice.
Just for a bit of background, alligator tail, or ‘gator, is an exotic meat/seafood enjoyed around the Gulf coast of North America, in states such as Louisiana and Florida. Its flavor is mild (as that saying goes, it tastes kind of like chicken), and its texture is somewhat firmer and chewier than chicken or fish. It’s not something you’ll find an a regular grocery, although I’ve seen a few places where you can order it online. Before we cooked it tonight, I’d only eaten it in restaurants, and only deep-fried. (Way back in my pre-gluten-free days, of course) This was an adventure for all of us.
To keep with our Cajun theme, we opted for dirty rice. Dirty rice is a Cajun rice dish, somewhat similar to a pilaf, that traditionally has chicken livers or giblets cooked with it, giving it a dark or “dirty” appearance. While I love chicken livers, I didn’t have any on hand, so we opted to make a simpler version that still was packed with Cajun spices and flavor. I found some lovely pork sausage from Truth Hill Farm, a local farm with grass-fed beef, pork, dairy, and free range chickens laying healthy, farm-fresh eggs. It was a perfect ingredient for our rice.
When contemplating Cajun or Creole spices, who better to use as a reference than Emeril? It had been a long while since I made any of his Essence, so we took this opportunity to make some. It’s a great go-to spice mix, perfect for seasoning everything from chicken to seafood to gumbos or rice dishes. We used it for both our dirty rice and for the ‘gator - it was a great way to streamline the cooking process. When you’re cooking with a very energetic child, this is definitely a plus.
The gator was simply seasoned with the Essence and grilled – much simpler than going through the process of frying, and Brandan and I both love to use the grill any opportunity we get. Since we had the grill going, we also wrapped some fresh corn on the cob in foil, seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and a pat of butter. With the dirty rice, this rounded out a great meal that everyone enjoyed. Only Matt wasn’t fond of the ‘gator tail – the rest of us thought it was pretty tasty. And the dirty rice was a winner with everyone – it might have to become something we make on a regular basis. (My only thought for improvement would be to swap out the white rice for brown, just because I love the texture of brown rice, and of course, it’s heartier and healthier.) Another adventure with Brandan in the kitchen was a success!
1 c yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 small bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
½ lb loose pork sausage
1 T Essence
2 c long-grain white rice
3 c chicken stock or water
2 bay leaves
Place the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor and process until no large chunks remain. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, brown and crumble the pork sausage over medium heat. When browned, add the mixture from the food processor and sauté for another minute or two. Add the Essence and rice and stir. Add the chicken stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked through. Remove bay leaves. Fluff, adjust seasonings to taste, and serve.
Grilled Alligator Tail
3 lbs alligator tail, cut into 3 oz pieces
1/4-1/2 c Essence
Season ‘gator tail pieces with Essence. Preheat grill to medium heat. Place ‘gator tail on oiled grates and grill 2-3 minutes per side, or until gator tail is firm and opaque.