Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Celebrating the Melted Cheese Sandwich-

    It was the first culinary adventure I ever embarked on. My oeuvre were not considered very special, but I liked them: grilled cheese sandwiches. Clearly, this isn’t something to brag about, but it was a beginning, back in 1954.
     My mom worked, so when I returned home hungry after school the fridge was my go-to. But what did I know? I surely wasn’t going to suddenly learn how to produce the meals my mom could turn out. So what was there?
     What there was were sliced white bread loaves and American cheese.

     I already had developed a craving for melted cheese sandwiches—and the part that was most enjoyable was the crispy run-off that fried brown along the edges of the sandwich. I would scrape this part off and eat it first…and sometimes I would return the sandwich to the fry pan and let more run  off and fry brown.
     That’s where the brainstorm appeared: why bother with the bread, when the cheesy, crispy part was all I craved?!
     So I started to fry cheese, sans bread. I would simply heat up the pan and fry up slices of cheese and eat them with drippy, oily fingers. This became something of a minor jones. No cheese was safe.
The problem arose—along with a serious talking-to—when I started frying Limburger….
     As you might imagine, there is a strong odor accompanying ANYthing you do with Limburger. I guess it was because of my deviated septum that I didn’t consider this a big deal. Family members with normal senses of smell took exception. But it was too late! The mad kitchen scientist was on his way!

Monday, April 14, 2014

There was this Italian pastry. It was opulence out of a scene in Amadeus—the one where Mozart plays for the Grand Duke and the dining room is full of Viennese cakes. It combined the best of northern European pastries and the Italian pastries I’d grown up with. It is a Casatina Palermitana, a small wonder whose name translates to “Little Wedding Cake from Palermo” (which is the capital of Sicily and my maternal grandmother’s maiden name)—and it figured prominently in my second divorce.
While my wife was working as a technologist in the designer garment trade, I was delving into all areas culinary. I was executive chef at a trendy Manhattan restaurant and so I spent a lot of my spare time playing with recipes. And eating.
My grandparents used to call me “Lucullia-face”, which meant that I “made like Lucullus.”Lucullus was a famous Roman statesman and gourmet; I had a sweet tooth. Same thing. And if something seduced my taste buds they stayed seduced.When I first had the rich pastry, I knew I had to one day replicate it.
It was a small, round wonder—two moistened sponge cake layers with cannoli cream inside, topped with vanilla fondant and some candied fruit; but most importantly, it was wrapped along its sides with rich green marzipan. This instant addiction was only available, as far as I knew, in two bakeries in the NY area, and having a couple Casatina Palermitana in the fridge always entailed a voyage by a few subway trains to La Guli in Astoria, or a bike ride to DiRoberti’s in the East Village.
Because marzipan is so expensive, I wasn’t overeager to replicate the dessert. I took my time, “settling” for just buying and eating. However, I eventually came across a user-friendly product in Chinese supermarkets that solved the expensive marzipan problem. For three or four bucks I bought a large can of powdered almond drink, which I played with until I got it right, until I got a useable flavorful final product. This semi-faux marzipan could be made by mixing a little water with egg whites and stirring it into the dry mix. A drop of green food color, and the resulting dense paste was a very viable marzipan substitute.
This discovery was like the philosopher’s stone to me. I was back on the scent of the elusive little pastry. My early experiments were awkward—the moist little three-inch-wide cakes would crumble or the filling and the marzipan would ooze—but I soon got it down. And now I was ready to spring them on the world!
I was having problems with my wife though. And she was having issues with male bosses at work, so my part in our conflict had a legion of boogie men behind it. She was additionally concerned, even though she was in the technology area, that being a little overweight in a fashion firm like Liz Claiborn could endanger her job. So she decided to diet. She asked me to be understanding and to be supportive and I agreed.
But she had once excelled as a student in various baking courses, had a cake decorator’s certificate, and so I highly valued her opinion. I promised her that I would be supportive as she’d requested, but I asked in return that she take one small bite of whatever new dessert I was working on. She agreed.
Several days later she forgot her promise. It was a weekend night and we had visitors, so we went to a Tex-Mex place and everyone had burritos and beers. Now of course this isn’t a dieter’s fare--and she had a second bottle of Tecate to boot. Back at our apartment with the other couple, I proudly presented a tray of four casatinas. My wife, however, rejected the dessert.
I reminded her that she’d promised to try one small bite of my occasional creation, and this only annoyed her. It’s probable that her overly peevish response was fueled by guilt at having broken her diet earlier at dinner. She asked me to just leave her “the hell alone”. And then I made the mistake of whining….
“Okay!” she literally growled at me, “You want me to eat this?!” she bellowed, scooping rather than delicately lifting it off the tray. She proceeded to moosh it into her mouth—deliberately making a mess, the force of the moosh spattering a wall behind her.
“Are you happy now?!” she gurgled angrily. The visitors made their excuses and left. My marriage to her lasted another year or so.
When she found a lawyer and hired him to walk us through the divorce, he required a reason from her. They explored all the normal this-kind-of-cruelty and that kind, and somehow they settled on the key clause in the uncontested divorce:

“…did physically force to eat rich desserts.”
During our Italian adventures in 2000, my wife, daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and I spent time in seven different towns over a five-week period. In at least three-quarters of the places we stayed at we did our own cooking. We were good cooks; the local ingredients were classically superb. Why eat out?
Halfway through our travels we found ourselves renting an apartment high up on the cliffs of Ravello, above the coastal town of Amalfi, and much to our discomfort, we hadn’t yet adapted to siesta hours. One problem was the difference between small towns and large cities. In small towns, all the food supply stores were closed four for hours every afternoon. Consequently, we found ourselves constantly looking for sustenance at times when shops were closed. Since no one was in charge of watching out that we didn’t run out of this or that, supper time was often a frenzied search for crucial ingredients.
On this particular day, the ingredient needed most was meat. Sausage to be precise.
Down the hill from us was a small butcher shop that hardly anyone frequented. From what we could tell, the reason for this was that the butcher, Signore Marcellino, was a man who preferred to drink wine and sit in the sun conversing with neighbors and passersby than actually run a butcher shop. Since there were no other options, we headed down to Marcellino’s. We took a shot.
Sure enough, the place was all but empty. A matronly female shopper had a small wrapped parcel in her hand as she exited, leaving us gawking at empty cases and a merry proprietor behind them, a man who seemed happy, for some reason, to welcome us to his vacant shop. We stuttered a bit in our poor Italian, told the man we’d come back tomorrow.
“No, no!” he insisted, then asked us what we needed. We said we were in need of about two kilos of sausage meat; but we also gestured at the empty meat cases and repeated our promise to return the next day. He would have nothing of it. “Ashpete ‘qui” he slurred, and promised us the meat.
Dragging us by the arm, he led us outside the shop to the two deck chairs he kept there and instructed us to sit and “ashpet” again as he disappeared back into his shop. Moments later he returned with two cloudy glasses and a cool flagon of his home made white wine. He poured us each a glass, handed the bottle to my son-in-law and indicated once more that we should wait. Then he organized his considerable girth atop the seat of a tiny scooter, hit the ignition, stomped on the pedal and was off down the spiraling mountain road that lay before us in broad panorama.
Amused and already a little drunk from the wine and that afternoon’s heat, we watched as Marcellino wound his way down the mountain and out of sight, imagining him possibly driving by a sequestered Gore Vidal, who was living there at the time. We could still hear his engine, though, as he put-putted down to his final destination. When all went silent, we began our second glass of wine.
A few minutes later, as the wine-fueled glow started to become a blur, we heard it down far below us.
It sounded at first like a high-pitched, sharp grinding…until the pitch grew sharper and we realized that it was a scream. A pig’s scream–“squealing like a stuck pig!” And just as soon as it began, it was eerily over.
We looked at each other. “You think that’s…”
“Yep.” We quickly poured and downed another wine.
Twenty minutes after leaving us to our winey indulgences, Signore Marcellino was sputtering back up the hill and winding his way into view. We drank to him silently as he approached. He arrived with a bloody sack over his shoulders, greeted us and went to work setting up his grinder.
Gradually, a heap of pork piled up on brown butcher paper. This would be supper—as soon as we were sober enough to cook it. It was, of course, the freshest pork we ever ate. As the saying goes, so fresh it still had the squeal in it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Damn you, fugu!

Two weeks before the word “Sandy” entered our disaster lexicon I made an important culinary discovery in the Smithsonian of culinary discoveries, the market streets of Chinatown in New York City. Chinatown, Jake—where I discovered black moss in heavy syrup and sea cucumber, a foot-long ocean bottom slug. Without going into the whys and wherefores of how these two failed to inspire me, let me say that stumbling over a reappearance of local blowfish tails made up for all the weirdness that the neighborhood’s “tastes” had presented me with over the years.
Blowfish. The name that suggests the term, “tastes like chicken” and conjures the memory of the soft fragrant flesh of the little “garbage fish” that started to catch on—at least in my kitchen-- in the 1970s. Fluke, flounder, sea bass, hake, blues—that was what we were after in fishing excursion boats out of Sheepshead Bay and other such launching berths along the northeastern US shoreline. And if we happened to pull up an ugly sea robin or blowfish, it was usually back it went. Unless we needed chum, in which case its fate was sealed.
And then one day in 1968, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, at a fish store, I saw a fish I could afford for my new family. It was a pile of freshly skinned blowfish, of all things—a choice that at first repulsed me. But when I saw the boneless state of the meat and the price--only thirty-nine cents a pound—I gave them a try. I cooked them up exactly how the fishmonger suggested. Dredged in a little flour and salt and pepper, then lightly fried in a pan with some butter, they were amazingly tasty, and soon became a staple at our table.
When I moved from Newark to New York City in 1970 I had a little difficulty locating the little tail-meat filets, but diligence paid off. By the late 70s, however, they were going for close to four bucks a pound. People were catching on….
And then the damned fugu swam into town.
This is not entirely true. No fugus are swimming in these parts. They live primarily in the Sea of Japan, or thereabouts. But when the sushi craze started catching on in the 80s, Japanese chefs began importing the meat of this Asian puffer, or blow fish. And then the legends started spreading.
To begin with, you should know that cleaning puffer fish or blowfish is not easy. They have rubbery skin like a catfish, which is what allows them to puff up to four or five times their size and thus dissuade predators. When it comes to the Japanese blowfish and its North Atlantic cousin, however, that’s where the comparison ends.
Unfortunately, the public has remained in the dark about this.
The key difference is that there is nothing at all lethal about our local native species, while the fugu, not properly prepared, can kill you. This is because the liver/bile sac organ of the fugu contains a deadly poison, which makes cleaning the fish a critical process; one nick of the liver and the bile that escapes will taint the fish’s flesh to where a single morsel could kill a person. A slight hint of this poison is sought after by some foodies—enough to just cause some numbness of the lips and tongue. (To each his own!)
Atlantic blowfish come cheap, but imported fugu served in sushi restaurants, due to all the precautions, is expensive. However this is all academic, since most New York sushi restaurants forgo the delicacy so as not to worry their customers. The words fugu and blowfish, therefore, became synonymous. And blowfish disappeared entirely from the stands of local fishmongers.
Until last year, 2012, when they began to appear in a single fish store on Grand Street, just east of the D/B train stop. I rejoiced, bought about a dozen small filets and greedily headed home for a great fish dinner. The first batch got cooked up about two weeks before Sandy, the super-storm, hit. The fish store became my champion. I was delighted with this return to sanity, this reemergence of a worthy fish.
I went back a second time. Then, less than a week before Sandy, I bought five pounds. You might say so what, but if you knew my freezer, you’d realize that this—what with all the individual wrapping of the 35-40 little filet-tails—would take up the bulk of my space. And that’s just what it did.
Suddenly, on October 28, 2013, we had no power.
Gas still came through my stove jets, so I could cook--and it suddenly became necessary to cook up whatever I could in my fridge, lest it rot. The blowfish filets were dredged and fried by candlelight and carried floor-to-floor by flashlight, as I fed whoever was still at home in my five-story walkup. I wondered about some—those whose eyebrows lifted when I said “blowfish”—as an awareness of poisonous fugu was more common than any knowledge of this long-disappeared local delicacy.
A few days later, as I strolled along the river wall at Hudson River Park to see firsthand the damage the storm had done to our cherished shoreline, I came upon something called the “Wetlab”—a location at the end of one of our piers that’s financed by various environmental agencies to monitor aquatic life in  local rivers and streams. They have what amounts to an aquarium there on the Hudson, and while it’s not structured for the public’s viewing (fish swim in muddy tanks) they welcome visitors and questions.
So I found a qualified and certified and fish-fried ichthyologist and put the question to him.
Those who remain skeptical can always visit the pier laboratory at the end of West Houston Street and ask the same question I did. You will get this answer: “There is no connection between the Japanese fugu and the North Atlantic blowfish, or puffer fish. You can eat the latter without a worry.”
Tell the paranoid public that! I guess fear won out in the end, and that I was one of the little fish store’s only customers last fall, because a half dozen visits there and elsewhere over the fall of 2013 have turned up zip.
I get blank ESL stares when I ask them about it. “Blue fish?” they ask.
Damn you, fugu!

Saturday, March 23, 2013


      In 1986 I partnered with down-home restaurateur, Stan Tankursley, to create a dim-sum catering and delivery service called Big Yum Dim Sum. We contracted with John Sung, the manager of Sun Hop Singh on the Bowery, to provide us with formed, uncooked dim sum that we would then take to the final stages by steaming, frying, baking, etc.The plan was to train caterer-cooks to bring each small dish to completion and final cooking, which they would then serve up at clients' apartments for dinner parties, soirees, etc.
     It was an idea before its time. And due to conflicts between Stan and the owners of the restaurant the dim sum service was to be based in, it was a plan that ended virtually before it began. But before it all came down there was that Saturday when I trained a dozen waiters and waitresses from Stan's various restaurants on the basics of dim sum cooking and catering.
     After buying the half-done dim sum from John Sung, I carefully biked the tubs of food to Acme in Soho, set up the training kitchen and spent three hours demonstrating the how to's to the gathered future employees of Big Yum.
     It all went well, and when it was over I greedily eyed all the dishes I had cooked and, after handing out a few samples to the trainees, realized a bounty of about ten more pounds of dim sum and bao in various stages of completion.This was all mine! A small treasure of Chinese delicacies that would bulge out the shelves of my fridge and feed me for the next two weeks.
     So as soon as the food was bagged and hung from the handlebars of my bike, I was off--heading crosstown to my place on Bank Street a mile or two away.
     The ride was uneventful. I was careful with my delicious hoard, pedaled carefully. That is, until I got to the corner of Seventh Avenue South and West 4th Street. The Boston-friendly bar, The Riviera, has been a fixture on that corner for half a century or more. And since this was a warm early summer day, the tables along the sidewalk at The Riviera were packed with diners enjoying a late lunch.
     I don't think those Riviera patrons expected entertainment that day, but they got it anyway--thanks to my careless bike riding. What happened was, as I was angling my bike close to curbside while passing those tables, one of the dangling bags of food got snagged in the spokes of my front wheel. As this began to wobble the bike, the other bags jiggled enough to also get caught in the spokes.
     This was followed by a virtual pinwheel of food. The spinning wheel caught the contents of the bags and hurled them upward! Crystal shrimp balls tumbled in midair, little pork shu mai scuttled across my handlebars, giant flakey puffs of pork pie disintegrated and spewed their red pork stuffing on the street, shrimp in rice noodle slid across the pavement, and hand-rolled silver noodles were everywhere.
     Diners gaped at this, stopped eating, held forksful of food suspended in front of their mouths. I didn't stop to count how many were laughing. I just dismounted and gathered up what I could. Wounded and damaged containers were shored up, a few dozen pieces escaped the disaster and went on to become breakfasts, but it was all done rapidly. I never cleaned up the mess, I'll confess, I just cut my losses and ran away.
     Sometimes, running away is the best option.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Night East Third Street Earned Five Stars

Don’t ask why we got stuck with all that food. It was that erratic genius of a restaurateur who set up most of the down-home-style restaurants in the '80s and '90s in downtown Manhattan. He was to blame. He was always to blame when things went south in his creations, because the flip side of his Midas touch was a management technique that would embarrass the Three Stooges. Anyway, without going into the specifics here, suffice to say he pissed off the landlord enough that--this time when the wacky wunderkind again missed paying the rent--the place got closed down.
Along with one of the junior partners, the head chef, I had just overseen the preparation of all the side dishes and vegetables, rice, jerk chicken, etc. for that night’s service. Anything that could be prepared ahead of an order was sitting in steam trays, warming up. My late wife Phylliss was also there, and when the sudden eviction notice sank in, the three of us commiserated over the fate of all that food. My wife and I came from backgrounds that considered a sin to waste anything edible, so we felt a sense of panic.
The landlord said, fine, take an hour. But after calling a few places like City Harvest, we learned that these charitable services are bound by law, or their insurance or such, to decline to take already prepared food. We were referred to the city shelters.
So, without calling ahead, the head chef helped Phylliss and me load up the trunk and backseat of a Checker cab, and we told the driver to take us to the East Third Street Men’s Shelter—and to wait for us outside until we had the shelter directors assign people to unload all that lovely food.
The shelter is on a narrow street in a seedy neighborhood, and the structure resembles a cross between a prison and a ghetto high school. It was grim-looking alright –but I could smell the food and knew there were a lot of people who’d be happy to see it. But inside I got the same answer: for all they knew we could be trying to poison all the guys at the shelter. In seriousness, the director thanked me but cited the prohibition.
I scratched my head and was walking out when he called to me. “But there’s nothing that says you can’t pass out the food in the street out front. You might get an eager audience, since they hate the food in here.” I brightened at that prospect, but I knitted my brows and asked him, “Yeah, but what about the…” He put up a hand. “They all have spoons and forks and plates, too. They like having their own…stuff.”
               So we did as he said. And so as to prove his promise, he apparently spread the word among the residents, because before we had the cab unloaded they came trickling out. And by the time the disposable steam trays were lined up and ready to be dipped into, the trickle was a steady stream.                 
               Phylliss and I scooped and scooped and filled bowl after bowl and were gracious in the gentle onslaught of thanks and praise. And never was there a better feast on that grim street. We had been smart to bring the two ladles, but aside from those and the cups, bowls and eating utensils the shelter residents had, that was it. The meal was about over when I remembered….
“We got cake, too!” I called out as I dug the covered cake out from under my pile of trays and bags. But as I opened the cake cover I complained loudly, “Damn! I forgot a knife”
Click! Click,click, click. Click. Click-click-click-click-click. I looked up and there were about twenty of them--guys offering me knives. Of course.
(“Got milk?!”)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

How To Cook an Alligator

I guess it started when the blue-haired old ladies of the southern Gulf states had a change of mind. That’s when the “specialty meat” started becoming available, appearing in menus Down South.
Apparently, pro-animal Southern dowagers had been key supporters of species preservation laws enacted in the sixties; but they eventually came to question some of that support.
Support for alligators, specifically. 
One too many of these caring old dears in Florida had watched in horror as a fearsome reptile that she was instrumental in saving slithered out of a nearby canal, into her backyard, and dragged off her precious Fluffy the poodle. So, when alligators got kicked off the endangered species lists, businessmen stepped in.
 In my case, I was introduced to the “delicacy” by a firm called AquaCulture Technologies.

This was the summer of 1988. I had been given creative control over some of the menu while Stan Tankursely was converting Caroline's for Comedy--an old bar-nightclub--into a soul-food restaurant. I was executive chef and was filling the menu with many of my innovative recipes as well Stan's--using traditional ones, and dreaming up ways to keep a Manhattan restaurant that was started in the summer, of all times, from sinking into oblivion. 
Delta 88 was all about the down-home craze of 1988, the classic Oldsmobile, and tummy-rubbing good grub from the Mississippi delta. We had everything you’d expect us to have on that southern-and-soul-food menu–-everything but chitt’lins, which would have stunk up the kitchen

When the AquaCulture rep arrived one day with my eighty pounds of catfish fillets and sixty whole, boned-and-gutted trout, he asked me “What about alligator?”
I’m a natural sort of guy, so I responded, naturally, “What about alligator?”
The salesman proceeded to brag about how AquaCulture was the first modern fish-farming company to take on the raising of the reptile for meat, and how I might have some fun playing with recipes. 
To make it real simple for me, he gave me two five-pound blocks of frozen tail meat. If I said “I was game,” a cartoon alligator with a shotgun would probably pop up out of this cartoon story and lay a cap in my...tail meat. But that’s what I was-–game to play around with the stuff. I accepted the gift

Delta 88 was holding its own despite the unpropitious timing of its opening. We hired gospel groups that usually returned to the South after a weekend of performing in city churches in Black communities, to perform in our “Monday Night is Gospel Night” program–- and the place, five weeks after its opening, was catching on. I had enough to do on-site, putting in seventy-plus-hour weeks; so I took the blocks of frozen tail meat home that weekend and thawed them out on my worktable.

I clamped a hand-cranked meat grinder to the edge of the table, since one of the recipes I dreamt up was for alligator sausage. In another pot, pieces of tail meat the size of beef stew chunks marinated in vinegar and lots of apple cider.

Louis L’Amour watched hungrily.
My late wife gave him that name because she supposed the dog to be French. Louis was a black standard poodle–-a lover and not a fighter. The runt of the litter. And that day, when I ground up the thawed-out tail meat for my sausages, and the bloody water leaked out of the grinder and puddled on the floor, Louis L’Amour became the first of his species to reverse the evolution of the food chain: he lapped up the alligator blood while wagging his tail.

I put together three recipes that day--–sausages, to be served with two sides, alligator stew with potatoes, apples, onions, celery and a few other things–-and spicy alligator fingers: pounded strips of meat (‘gator is not a tender meat) that were then breaded, deep-fried and served as an appetizer with Delta 88's spicy Crystal Butter Sauce.
As I considered how to present all of this, I realized that the downside of Delta 88's summer opening could be used to our advantage. It was all about the seasons...

I’d  come to the restaurant field from journalism, so I knew that the summertime--when so many readers are away, when nothing much happens, and when no one cares because they’re all on vacation–-is the key time of any year for the so-called human interest story to make it into media. It’s called in the trade, the “Silly Season.”

Caroline Hirsch, impresario of Caroline’s Comedy Club, was the owner of Delta 88, so her publicist took my cue and began sending out press notices about my alligator dishes. I gave the stew the name “LaCoste Stew” and it caught the eye of The Wall Street Journal, which put a blurb about it on their front page.
In all, fourteen reviews or notices appeared heralding what I’d dubbed “The First New York Alligator Festival.”

Alligator tastes like a combination of chicken and tuna. That’s all I have to say about it. Do I care that so many innocent animals were blah-blah-blah? Look-–the recipes are below. If you follow any one (or all) of them and come to the conclusion that I have advanced the cause of humans eating big, "helpless", Fluffy-the-poodle-eating, lizardy carnivores, well... (Why do you think there was no Second New York Alligator Festival?)
LaCoste Stew
½ lb. new red potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
2 lbs. alligator tail meat cut into 2" chunks
1 ½ cups  peeled , diced carrots
1 lb. Roma apples, peeled and cored, cut into 1" pieces
½ cup peeled, sliced onion
½ cup diced celery
1 12-oz can of white cannelini beans, drained
4 cups (1 quart) apple cider
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
3-quart stock pot

1.- set a small pot of water to boil. Add the potatoes and return to boil and cook for 10 minutes;
2- heat oil in stock pot, then add onions and saute until translucent;
3- add carrots, celery and apples. Toss and continue to saute for 2 more minutes;
4- add the tail meat and increase the temperature to medium high. Saute until slightly browned (but do not let other ingredients burn–-be sure to keep stirring);
5- pour in cider, stir and bring to a simmer;
6- add the beans and semi-cooked potatoes, salt and pepper;
7- bring to a slow boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for 45 minutes

Alligator Sausages
2 lbs. alligator tail meat cut into 2" chunks
½ lb. pork fat cut into 1" pieces
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. finely grated apple peel
½ tsp. allspice
1 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. onion juice*
12 pieces of string cut into 4" lengths
2 yards of sausage casings
garlic press
meat grinder with medium grind disk,  fitted with sausage feeder

1-* to obtain 1 tbsp. of onion juice, squeeze onion pieces in garlic press and save in small bowl ;
2- in a glass or ceramic bowl, sprinkle salt, pepper, Cayenne, allspice, apple peel gratings, onion juice and cider vinegar over the chunks of tail meat and pork fat and allow to marinate (tossing every ten minutes) for about an hour;

3- slide the end of the length of sausage casings over the fluted end of the sausage feeder attached to your meat grinder;
4- drain the liquid from the marinated tail meat;
5- grind the tail meat and pork fat into the sausage casings and tie off every 5 inches. Tie off the ends.
6-hang in a cool, dry place to dry and cure for about 4 hours;
7- pan fry and serve.

Spicy Alligator Fingers
1 lb. alligator tail meat cut into strips 3" long and about ½" thick;
1 1/2 cups flour
½ cup stone ground cornmeal
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. salt
½ cup melted butter
1/4 cup Crystal (brand) hot sauce
oil for deep frying

1- place a number of tail meat strips between wax paper and pound flat; repeat until all are done;
2- in a bowl, marinate pounded “fingers” in the vinegar for about ½ hour;
3- heat oil to 375°
4- remove alligator “fingers” from marinade and pat semi-dry
5- in a shallow bowl, combine salt, cornmeal and flour;
6- dredge “fingers” in flour-salt and deep fry until golden;
7- meanwhile, stir together the hot sauce and melted butter until smoothly combined;
8- drain/blot deep-fried strips and serve with Crystal Butter Sauce.