My tailgate parties at Louisiana State University always feature a bubbling cast-iron cauldron of something special. Every Louisiana flavor from jambalaya and seafood gumbo to red beans and crawfish étouffée has graced our 15-gallon pot, but sometimes we switch it up a bit.
One of my favorite game-day traditions on campus is that of “cooking our opponent’s mascot.” Cochon de lait tops the menu when we face the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, and we feast on fowl when the University of South Carolina Gamecocks come to town. When LSU plays the University of Florida, gator is the dish of the day.
There are lots of ways to cook alligator. Some people roast it whole on a rotisserie spit, mostly for the spectacle of having a gator spinning above open flames. Other folks fry bite-sized crispy morsels of gator white meat. But when I break out my trusty black iron kettle, my favorite way to cook alligator is stewed in a mess of white beans.
I start by browning the tail meat, and then cook down the aromatic vegetables. The beans are slow-simmered with smoked ham hocks for extra flavor. The result is a creamy, savory pot of white beans with tender gator meat.
We usually make enough to feed an army of hungry Tiger fans. I suppose, if you wanted to cook these beans at home, 15 gallons might be overkill, so I’ve scaled down the recipe a little bit. You’ll still get all the succulent white bean and alligator flavor.
- 1 pound dried white beans*
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
- 1 pound alligator tail meat, cut into ¼-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, halved, seeded, and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup light floral white wine*
- 1 smoked ham hock
- 2 bay leaves
- Hot cooked jasmine rice
- Garnish: chopped fresh parsley, hot sauce
- Soak beans in cold water for 24 hours. Drain beans, and rinse in cold water. Drain, and set aside.
- In a small shallow bowl, combine flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Season alligator with flour mixture.
- In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add alligator; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove alligator, and set aside.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to Dutch oven, and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic; cook until onion is translucent, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in wine, and cook for 1 minute, scraping browned bits from bottom of pot with a wooden spoon. Add ham hock, beans, and water to cover. Add alligator and bay leaves. Sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining ½ teaspoon pepper.
- Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 1 hour. For creamier beans, use the back of a spoon to mash about one-third of beans against side of pot. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Remove bay leaves and ham hock before serving. Serve over hot cooked jasmine rice. Garnish with parsley and hot sauce, if desired.
Want more great recipes? Find that and more in the newest issue of Louisiana Cookin’.