If you don't know what a Po' boy sandwich is, just click here to see the New Orleans Po' boy Tour I shot last summer. A po' boy is the official sandwich of Louisiana. Any protein you can come up with has been stuffed into a locally baked roll of French bread. I've tried it with hot links, cold cuts, roast beef, and fried crawfish, catfish, oysters and alligator. And in the South a sandwich is "dressed" -- that means adding slices of tomato, pickle and lettuce with a smear of mayo. It's a Cajun version of the subway sandwich.
Chef Matt also does a buttermilk wash, before adding cut alligator cubes to the cornmeal. If you can't find buttermilk sold locally, a cheap substitution is done by adding a tablespoon of vinegar (or lemon juice) to a cup of regular milk, and letting it sit for five minutes.
And since I'm in Louisiana for this recipe shoot, I'm sticking with local protein. That means I'm using $9.99 per pound fillets of alligator tail meat! Gator is not for everyone, it can be a little chewy, with the texture of a well-done pork chop. The flavor is somewhere between chicken and fish. But I do have some cheaper substitutions that fry up just as deliciously.
The fried cornmeal coating also works well with budget one dollar fish fillets of tilapia (which I frequently find at 99c only Stores, and in frozen meat grocery deli cases.) You could even use chunks of white meat chicken for a tasty cheap Fried Chicken Po' boy. If you ever visit Louisiana, I would recommend getting the more typical Fried Catfish Po' boy, which uses the same cornmeal coating and is sold for half the price of an alligator version.
In my South Los Angeles neighborhood, Southern transplants are catered to by local chain groceries selling catfish fillets in the fresh seafood section for around $3 per pound -- get a pound and you could easily fill three po' boys. You can use any locally harvested firm fish -- just try frying it in Chef Matt's seasoned cornmeal coating and making a po' boy sandwich with it.
And check back to view my final recipe video of February Sandwich Month -- a homemade version of a breakfast corporate-tweaked classic, the Egg McMuffin -- done in this arty chef's animated stop-motion style.
Fried Alligator Po'boy - VIDEO
Play it here. Video runs 7 minutes, 26 seconds.
To view or embed from YouTube, click here.
Ingredients (2-3 six-inch sandwiches)
- 1/2 pound alligator - or use tilapia fish or boneless chicken for a cheaper (and easier to get) substitution.
- 1 cup buttermilk - or make your own by mixing regular milk with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice, and letting mixture sit for 5 minutes. It's okay to just use regular milk or even water -- just to dampen meat so cornmeal will stick.
- 1 cup of cornmeal - white or yellow. You could also go with a mix of half flour, half cornmeal.
- Cornmeal is seasoned with - 1 teaspoon of Cajun spices (I use Tony Chachere's, but any generic blend will do), garlic powder and black pepper.
- Large French bread baguette - cut into 6-inch sandwich sizes. Okay to use 6-inch bakery rolls from your local grocery.
- Sandwich is dressed with mayo, sliced tomato, pickle and lettuce.
- About 2 cups vegetable oil - for frying coated alligator (or any favorite frying oil).
Add oil for frying in a pan or pot, over a medium/high heat.
Add buttermilk to a bowl and cornmeal to another bowl (or plate.) Season cornmeal with Cajun spices, garlic powder and black pepper. Slice meat into bite-sized pieces. Add meat to buttermilk and wash all sides. Next, add wet alligator pieces to seasoned cornmeal and coat well.
You may need to fry in batches, depending how large the pan or pot is. Carefully add a coated alligator nugget to the hot oil -- it should start frying and bubbling right away (see video.) Add more alligator, but don't overcrowd the frying pan. If you use fish fillets they will cook quicker; no more than a couple of minutes for each side. Alligator takes an extra minute or two longer, about 5 -7 minutes. Done when cooked through and the cornmeal coating is brown.
Remove pieces to a paper towel to drain, until all the alligator is fried.
Now it's time to build the sandwich. Cut French bread baguette into 6-inch sandwich sizes. Slice open roll and add mayo, sliced tomato and lettuce (pickle slices, too.) Fill it up with fried alligator nuggets. Best with a cold beer!