ALLIGATOR SAUCE PIQUANTE
New Orleans Seafood Cookbook
by Ralph Brennan
As the name indicates, sauce piquante has a peppery kick to it, although the pepper level can be raised or reduced to taste. A rustic dish with a long Cajun heritage, sauce piquante is made with lots of extra seasonings and is traditionally served with rice. This recipe uses alligator tail meat, the cut sold by retailers. The sauce is versatile enough to be matched with any number of main ingredients—not only alligator but also turtle, pork, chicken, veal, conch, scallops and game. Many sauce piquante fans keep a bottle of Tabasco handy when eating it.
This dish takes on added flavor when served the day after it is prepared.
For 6 servings
• A very small, heavy skillet or 6½-inch crepe pan
• A long-handled whisk or wooden spoon
• A kitchen mallet
• A heavy 12-inch saute pan
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
• 2 pounds alligator tail meat, trimmed of all sinew, fat and silver skin
• 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, preferably kosher salt, or to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
• 5 tablespoons clarified butter, divided
• 6 cloves garlic, cut crosswise into very thin slices
• 1 cup chopped yellow onions
• 1/2 cup chopped celery
• 1/2 cup chopped green sweet peppers
• 2 cups chopped Creole tomatoes*
• 1½ tablespoons minced fresh jalapeno peppers**
• 3 tablespoons minced Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves, divided
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme leaves
• 1 cup good-quality dry white wine
• 2½ cups chicken stock
• hot cooked white rice (preferably long-grain),stone-ground grits or couscous, for serving
**South Louisiana's Creole tomatoes are preferred for this recipe, although other good, peak-of-season regional varieties can be used.
**Jalapenos vary in heat level. The best way to reach the dish's desirable level is to begin with half of the amount the recipe calls for and adjust the amount of pepper to taste.
1. For the roux, in a very small, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot, about one minute. Add 1 tablespoon of flour and cook, constantly whisking or stirring with a long-handled metal whisk or wooden spoon, until the flour turns a dark-chocolate brown, three to four minutes. Be careful not to scorch the roux. Promptly remove the roux from heat and continue whisking thoroughly until it stops getting darker, two to three minutes. Set aside at room temperature.
2. Using a kitchen mallet, pound the pieces of alligator between two pieces of wax paper or parchment paper to tenderize the meat and make all pieces 1/4-inch thick, then cut the meat into rough bite-sized pieces, cutting across the sinews whenever possible to further tenderize the meat. Season the meat with kosher salt, cayenne and black pepper. Place 1 cup of flour in a small mixing bowl and dredge half the alligator pieces in it, shaking off any excess.
3. Heat 2½ tablespoons of clarified butter in a heavy 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until hot, one to two minutes. Add the dredged alligator meat in a single layer and cook until dark golden brown, five to seven minutes on each side. Transfer the pieces to a plate or bowl as they brown.
4. Wipe the pan clean with paper towels and heat another 2½ tablespoons clarified butter until hot. Dredge the remaining alligator in the flour, and brown them as you did the first batch. Return the first batch of meat to the pan with the second batch.
5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the garlic. Cook the garlic until it begins to brown, one to two minutes, stirring and turning over the meat pieces almost constantly. Add the onions, celery and sweet peppers. Cook until the onions are translucent, about five minutes, stirring frequently and continuing to turn the meat over so the vegetables will cook evenly.
6. Stir in the tomatoes and jalapenos and increase the heat to medium. Cook for about three minutes, then add 2 tablespoons of parsley and the thyme, wine and stock, stirring well. Scatter bits of the reserved roux over the mixture, and whisk or stir until the roux is blended in.
7. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the sauce until the alligator is tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the salt and pepper seasoning toward the end of cooking if needed.
Serving Suggestion: Serve immediately, or make the dish a day ahead and reheat it at serving time.
Serve over rice, grits or couscous, garnishing each portion with some of the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley.