I love the cuisine of Louisiana. I was disappointed in this cookbook.
by Leon Pantenburg
I’m one of those people who will sit down and read a new cookbook like a novel. I start at the beginning, move through appetizers and entrees, and eventually find something I want to cook for dinner.
And that was my intention when I got a copy of “The Gator Queen Liz Cook Book” by Elizabeth Choate. Choate is an alligator hunter on the popular “Swamp People” series of the History Channel. I rarely watch “reality” TV, but I did watch several episodes of “Swamp People” to get a feel for the show.
Basically, Liz and her partner(s) hunt alligators during the season for the meat and hides. They have adventures along the way, and usually end up “rassling” a big gator onto the boat after shooting it with a .22 rifle. No reality series is complete without drama of some sort, and the alligator hunters generally must cope with bad weather, falling water levels and/or the season closing before they fill their tags.
The cookbook is a natural offshoot, designed to play off the series. It features photos of Liz’s husband and kids, and of various family activities. I enjoyed looking at them.
So back to the cookbook. I’m reading along, looking for a dinner recipe. But I didn’t have any of Liz’s special seasoning, so I couldn’t do any of the interesting recipes. The further I read, the more apparent it became: This cookbook is designed to promote Liz’s seasoning.
In the venison and pork section, there were 14 recipes, and all but one required the seasoning. Of the 27 seafood recipes, 22 required the seasoning. Chicken was similar – 13 total recipes, and 12 required Liz’s seasoning. All told, 71 recipes of the approximately 100 need Liz’s seasoning.
This leads to two different conclusions. Either that seasoning is one hell of an ingredient, or the recipes were created with that special seasoning to sell cookbooks and product.
I compared some of Liz’s recipes with those of other Louisiana cookbooks I have. I didn’t find anything particularly unique – except for Liz’s seasoning – in the gator queen book.
Another surprise was that there was no mention of roux. Roux is a mixture of bacon fat or oil, mixed with flour and browned over heat. It is used as a base for gumbo, soups and other Cajun dishes. The roux adds a lot of flavor, and is an essential ingredient in many Cajun dishes. The fact roux wasn’t mentioned is another thumbs down.
I lived in the deep south for several years, and I love southern cooking. I particularly like Cajun cuisine when it comes to wild game. The combination of great seasonings and the unique flavors of the different meats and seafood create one of my favorite comfort food cuisines.
And some of my favorite people in Mississippi are of Cajun descent. They can cook that style really, really well. They don’t use a special seasoning, and usually use a roux.
So I was disappointed in “The Gator Queen Liz Cookbook.” If you’re looking for a good Cajun/Louisiana cookbook, keep looking.
Here’s a great roux recipe from Foods a la Louisiane, by the Louisiana Farm Bureau Women, my go-to Louisiana cookbook.
1/4 c lard
1/4 c all-purpose flour
2 large onions, finely chopped
fresh chopped parsley
Melt lard in cast iron pot over medium heat, add flour, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until roux is light brown. Add onions, cook until onions are brown, stirring constantly. Add parsley as desired, stir well. Roux is done when it is the color of a copper penny. Yield: 1/2 cup
Submitted by Mrs. Eddie (Doris) Schexnaydre, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana
Leon Pantenburg is an outdoor cooking enthusiast, with a particular interest in wild game cuisine. He was a charter member of the Central Oregon Dutch Oven Society, an award winning Dutch oven cook, former cookoff judge and a two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven World Championship competition. Leon is also a Boy Scout cooking merit badge counselor.