By Tim H. Martin
Traditionally, jambalaya is made with ham and other leftovers, but is wonderful with a variety of meats and your favorite ingredients. Try swapping out items in this recipe with things such as scallops, crawfish, duck, squirrel, pheasant, rabbit — the list is endless!
• 1 pound smoked sausage, preferably Andouille, in 1/2 inch slices or medium dice
• 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. medium count shrimp (raw, peeled and deveined)
• 1 lb. chicken breasts or gator tail (boneless/skinless, cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• 2 tablespoons butter, divided
• 1 red bell pepper, chopped
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 3 celery sticks, chopped
• 5 or 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
• 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice (raw) or parboiled rice
• 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
• 2 bay leaves
• Kosher or sea salt to taste
• 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
• Cayenne pepper, to taste
• Hot sauce, to taste
• 1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish
• Chopped green onion stems for garnish
First, peel and devein 1 to 1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until the final 5 minutes of cooking.
Cube raw chicken or gator tail and season with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or heavy pot with a lid, on medium to med-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter until it foams and brown the meat cubes. Remove, drain and set aside.
Next, brown the sausage, then remove, drain well and set aside.
Clean away sausage drippings and add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to sauté the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until slightly tender.
Then, put meats, rice, tomatoes, spices and add all remaining ingredients, EXCEPT THE SHRIMP, into the pot with the tenderized vegetables, and stir well.
Bring to a low boil and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to ensure the rice cooks properly.
Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for an additional 25 minutes, or until the rice is done.
When rice is done, add the shrimp, stir, turn burner off, cover and let the pot sit for an additional 5 minutes until shrimp turn pink.
Serve immediately with biscuits or French bread. Garnish with green onions, parsley and hot sauce.
Like paella, its Spanish cousin, jambalaya will sometimes scorch a little on the bottom of the pot. This is a good thing. Don’t toss out the tastiest part of the dish; dig down deep and scrape up the crusty goodness.
Acquiring Gator Tail
Like armadillos and coyotes, the range of the American alligator has expanded northward. Many states in the Deep South have recently added gator seasons, as well as nuisance permits for landowners who’ve suddenly found their ponds teeming with unwanted visitors. Sometimes hunters have more gator meat than they can use, so ask around.
But if you can’t get your hands on gator meat from a hunter, farm-raised gator meat is becoming available throughout the country in grocery stores, and you can order it online by searching “gator tail shipping.” If you acquire some, cube the meat in 1/2 inch dice and soak it in buttermilk overnight to tenderize. Make sure to remove any fat, as it does not taste good.
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Guinea Pigs for Gator Tail
– By Tim H. Martin
Photo: The author’s brother, Darryl Martin, drew a Georgia gator tag and took this 8 1/2-footer. Tim H. Martin tested its tail meat (instead of chicken) in a jambalaya recipe on unsuspecting family members. The results were an empty pot and another reason to enter the draw for more gator tags.
A few years ago, my youngest brother, Darryl Martin, drew a gator tag and took an 8 1⁄2-footer in South Georgia. He was looking for ways to cook the big lizard, so he gave me several bags of gator tail to try in various recipes. Jambalaya was my first thought.
What better time to test gator tail jambalaya on unsuspecting family members than the day after Thanksgiving? Everyone at the Martin gathering would be burned out on turkey and dressing, and would enjoy something with a kick.
As the sun set on Turkey Day, I spent the evening trimming away fishy fat from the gator tail and plotting my recipe in secret.
Knowing gator tail is chewier than chicken, I soaked the beautiful white chunks in a bowl of buttermilk overnight in the fridge to tenderize and flavor them, then substituted it in the jambalaya for chicken without notifying my kin.
On Black Friday, all the womenfolk went Christmas shopping, so I had three generations of unsuspecting men and grandkids to use as guinea pigs. They were hungry for something hot, so I loaded up their plates with spicy lizard-meat jambalaya.
Everyone came back for seconds . . . and thirds . . . and some for fourths, until the pot was empty.
The gator tail experiment was such a success, we are hoping to draw future gator tags and make it a Martin family tradition. Although, I haven’t tested it on the women yet . . . shhh!