It has been a very long time since I've eaten alligator. I feel it deserves more fair product placement than the touristy crap food designation it has held for most of my adult life. As a younger person, I was fortunate to experience alligator both fried and grilled. This usually utilized the tail meat. The popular (or more traditional) way to prepare it in South Louisiana was alligator sauce piquant. You can probably ascertain that this is a fairly piquant stewed down dish from the name. A lot of gator preparations involve overcooking and over masking of flavor. As a result, I can not really say I hold any sort of childhood partiality to the taste of gator... who the hell knows what it actually taste like anyway? Everybody says 'chicken,' but this is BS. It's more reminiscent of shark or sword, and would probably go great on a Baja taco. Those who know me may speculate that this gator-fascination stems from my love of watching "Swamp People," but that's just cause it reminds me of back home.
For this week's Sol Sunday menu, I am playing around with alligator chili. True, this is just another overly seasoned cooked down gator dish, and who's to say that chicken couldn't be sub'ed in unknowingly (I've actually incorporated some pork as is common practice with things like gator sausage). I'm still excited about this because I can put my hand on some alligator meat from a new point in my culinary career. This pushes me to want to experiment with it. How would fresh gator cooked sous-vide turn out? Would there be a better showing of the actual flavor? Would this flavor be desirable? And how awesome would it be to focus on the Everglades regional bounty that could possibly become the benchmark of Floridian cuisine?
For today though, it's chili. I took some inspiration from Kenji in an old Serious Eats article but went different directions. I decided to embrace grill and smoke flavor and prepared some of the ingredients accordingly. The result was a deep balanced slightly spicy flavor with hints of Tex Mex and mole. Start by sweating onions and garlic. Add in sweet red peppers and poblanos that were grilled. Add in grill-charred pork and slow-smoked alligator. Prepared aji panca for smoke and depth and aji amarillo for brightness and heat were nice Peruvian add-ins. To push the heat a bit more, jalapeño powder and cayenne then round out the flavors with Venezuelan chocolate and uber-ripe tomatoes. Turtle beans are added in at the very end.