Asking a chef or cook what their secret recipe is one of those things that I generally try to avoid. After all, there's always more to a great meal than simply a set of directions. That being said, after trying some of the famous Gator Gumbo at Peace River Seafood in Punta Gorda, Florida I just had to ask for the chance to share it with you guys. It's THAT good ... and what's even better is that they even have a pet alligator in the pond out back ... because of course they do, It's Florida!
When I travel to new destinations, I usually have tons of great food but seldom to I feel compelled to return to the same place twice. Peace River Seafood though is the exception. I visited them on the first day of my visit to try their all-you-can-eat crab feast but had to go back again before I headed back to California.
One of the things that makes Peace River Seafood so great is that it started as a wholesale seafood distributor, so everything here is FRESH and of the highest quality, you can get. In 2003, Kelly Beall, wife of the owner, began serving her secret Gator Gumbo recipe on Friday afternoons under the giant oak tree. This recipe quickly became a hit and led the pair to expand the food offerings and convert the building behind the tree from a feed store, into the seafood restaurant it is today.
We were honored to have it served to us by Larry Corbin, the cook who's the genius behind the grub found here and probably the first person outside of her family that Kelly entrusted with this secret recipe.
Peace River Seafood Gator Gumbo Recipe:
A good gumbo always starts with a great roux and this one uses whole wheat flour as the base. This alligator gumbo recipe makes a serving for 10-15 people. All gumbo recipes are essentially built around the concept of slow cooking so that you can allow the flavors to merge and create that legendary flavor that you crave. So with this gumbo recipe, feel free to use a big traditional cooking pot on the stove or use a slow cooker instead.
However, this is not a one-dish slow cooker alligator gumbo recipe. You need to start by making the perfect roux, as that is the start of any great gumbo!
Start By Making A Great Roux ...
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 cups chopped sweet onions
- 2.5 cups diced green bell peppers
- 1 pound andouille sausage (diced)
- (to taste) - Coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper
Melt the butter in a large stockpot over low heat.
Add flour and constantly whisk to a smooth consistency. Continue till the mixture is the color of a penny.
Stir in the onions, peppers, and sausage, then season to taste.
Let the roux cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate till ready to use.
Making The Gator Gumbo ...
- 3 pounds of gator, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
- 1 tbs fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup salt
- 2 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 pound of shrimp (peeled, deveined, and chopped small)
- 1/2 pound crab meat (lump or claw)
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 3 tbsp tomato paste (to taste)
- 2 cups sliced okra
Place the alligator in a pot or slow cooker and cover with water 2 inches above the meat.
Add bay leaves, celery leaves, thyme, pepper, salt, cayenne, and garlic.
Cook covered on low for 4 hours or until the gator is tender enough to break apart with a fork.
Stir in the shrimp and crab and cook for about 10 minutes.
Remove the gator, shrimp, and crab, place into the cold roux along with the chicken stock, and stir till well mixed.
Add the liquid from the slow cooker, tomato paste, and okra and cook until the okra is tender.
Depending on personal preference, you can add additional chicken stock.
Serve in a big bowl with scoop of rice.
There you have it! This is one of my absolute favorite gumbo recipes since it combines all of the things that I love about traveling and exploring different cultures. While the concept of Gator Gumbo may be a bit of a thing you try first for the shock value, it is actually quite delicious.
That's ultimately the fun part about Cajun cooking. It is more about using what you have than worrying about what's better. Gator Gumbo ... Seafood Gumbo ... or just plain ole' classic gumbo with andouille sausage ... as long as you make it with love and take the time to let the flavors come out, you're gonna put a smile on someone's face!