Made in Louisiana @ Southern Food and Beverage Museum: Alligator Frito Chili with Red Beans

Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in New Orleans is a street seeing its renaissance. This weekend I got to tuck into a new spot on Oretha Castle; I attended the Made in Louisiana festival at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. Thrilled to have the opportunity to know a little better what is cracking on the food scene in my city.

Made in Louisiana featured forty local purveyors of food, beverages and culinary products. There was fresh baked bread, cold brew coffee, chocolate, gumbo, smoked tasso ham, craft beer, Cajun caviar, spicy agave nectar…I could go on. But here were the highlights for me:

First, there was the jalapeno chandelier. Then, fresh ciabatta—a loaf so light I have not had in years. It came out of the oven two hours prior to my purchase, mm mm. Thank you Mayhew Bakery. You have Bake This Day’s full endorsement.

I immediately went home and got out the fancy olive oil and fine balsamic and tortured my bulldog with each piece of hand torn crumb. Don’t worry, she got a little taste.

Then there was Acalli chocolate, a New Orleans chocolatier who imports their cacao from Peru. Delicious, rich little nibs.

Papa Yaw’s Spicy Ginger Peppercorn Agave Nectar was a hit in lemonade and in chicken corn nachos.

Orleans Coffee concocted some delicious cold brew.

Mint Juleps from Oak Alley Plantation.

Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse is my next stop when I’m craving andouille or smoked tasso. OMG. Delicious.

Finally. Caviar. Cajun caviar. I’m a convert.

I came home ready to cook, so inspired by my Cajun Creole Southern Feast State.

Alligator Chili Frito Pie

Adapted from Louisiana Cookin

½ cup olive oil

1 pound ground alligator meat

1.5 pounds ground beef

2 cups diced onion

2 cups diced celery

2 cups diced bell pepper

4 tablespoons diced garlic

4 tablespoons diced jalapeño

2 (16-ounce) cans pinto beans

6 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce

2 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Salt, to taste

Cracked black pepper, to taste

A big bag of Fritos

Garnish: shredded cheddar cheese, minced red onions, sliced green onions, sliced jalapeño peppers


  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Add alligator and beef; sauté 20 minutes. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeno. Sauté until vegetables are softened. Add beans, tomato sauce, and broth; bring to a low boil. Reduce heat, and simmer.
  2. Add chili powder and cumin, and stir well; cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Once alligator is tender, season to taste with salt and black pepper. Ladle the chili into bowls. Sprinkle cheese and Fritos on top. Garnish with onions, and jalapeño, if desired.

And some red beans…classic style.

Red Beans and Rice

1 lb. dried small red beans (kidney beans), rinsed and soaked in water overnight, unless you don’t want to—you can just cook the whole thing longer—matter of preference.

2 smoked ham hocks

2 tbsp olive oil (or bacon grease, what have you)

2 onions, diced

1 red or green bell pepper, seeded, and diced

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 tsp. minced garlic

3 whole bay leaves

2 tbsp basil

2 tbsp oregano

2 tbsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp thyme

2 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp salt, or to taste

1 tsp ground black pepper

2 green onions, chopped

5 cups cooked rice, brown is better for you

Cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce, optional

Heat onions, green peppers, garlic, and celery on a skillet in olive oil, ten minutes or so, until soft. Add this mix to a crockpot, with red beans, ham hocks, and bay leaves. In a small bowl, combine the spices and add 4 tbsp of the spice mix to the crockpot. Cover the mixture with water (about 2-3 quarts) and turn on the crock pot to High. Stir periodically and add water if needed to keep the beans covered. Cook for as long as you want… but keep tasting and add more spice mix if you would like. After several hours, remove the ham hocks, put some of the meat back in the pot if you would like. Remove once cup of beans from the pot and mash them until creamy—add them back to the pot for additional creaminess if desired. Remove the cover for the final 30-60 minutes, or until the sauce is the thickness you prefer. Serve over rice and sprinkle with green onions.

In the same pot, cook the bacon until crisp, and remove to the dish with the other meats. Cook the andouille slices until browned, and add to the bacon, etc. In the bacon fat, sauté the onion, bell pepper and celery until softened. Add the garlic, oregano and thyme, and stir for a minute or so. Stir in the reserved 6 cups of liquid, the beans, bay leaves and Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the beans are tender and the liquid is beginning to thicken. This may take anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on whether or not you soaked the beans overnight. Remove the cover and simmer until thickened, probably another 30 minutes.

Stir in the turkey, ham, bacon and sausage. Taste and add salt, pepper, more Cajun seasoning, Tabasco and/or cayenne as desired. Heat the meat through and serve over hot fluffy white rice.

Oven method: If desired, once the beans and seasonings are added, the pot may be covered and cooked in a 300° oven instead of on the stovetop. Remove the cover for the last half hour, and then add meat, etc. as above.

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