It doesn’t sound that odd, but “Surf & Turf” does cover a broad variety of food combinations. To me, the traditional surf and turf consisting of filet mignon and a previously frozen, warm-water lobster tail is the surest sign of an awful restaurant; just two overpriced bland food items. The different takes are always the best ones, which is how we ended up with offal, reptile, and fish for dinner when we were down in Naples.
It all started at Jimmy P’s butcher shop in Naples, FL.
Along with lots of nice looking cuts of high-quality meat, they also have a few cases of more interesting and unique items. As you look left to right at the freezer cases, they start you with the game meat sausages, advancing to the tiny birds and poultry liver mousses, before culminating with a case full of organ meats.
After 15 minutes of pacing, leaving grease streaks on the glass with my nose, and defrosting the freezer with constant opening and closing, I paid for my lamb kidneys and gator fillets.
After some research, it seemed that one of the most common methods for prepping lamb kidneys is to soak in heavily dilluted vinegar. I didn’t like the idea of this since I hate the rubbery, bad ceviche-like outside that citrus juice or vinegar gives to meat when marinating. However, I’m also an idiot and blindly followed the recommendations of some anonymous internet recipe poster.
I ended up regretting that decision when I saw the outside had changed color 20 minutes later. I pulled the kidneys out of the diluted vinegar soak and rinsed them thoroughly to stop the pickling effect before slicing each one in half.
After the internets failed me, I fell back on my previous knowledge of kidneys and soaked them in milk followed by salted cold water. The goal was to draw out whatever blood and funkiness they held inside.
While those sat in the fridge and reduced the resale value of Mommy Ryan’s condo, Tim got started prepping the pound of gator fillets.
Alligator is a little gimmicky and is on the menu at a lot of crappy theme restaurants in Southwest Florida. However, it’s also pretty delicious if done right; like salty tender chicken scallopine that’s been tenderized by the spiky side of a mallet. It sounds specific, but it’s a pretty solid analogy according to the writer of said analogy.
Tim planned to set aside some of the larger pieces for grilling and fry up the remaining chunks. Worked for me, but I insisted he come down to the pool and help me start the grill since I am scared of grills and he is a real man and all. Friggin jerk. Here’s what headed to the grill along with two (varying degrees of) portly Ryans:
With the grill safely started by Tim (while I hid behind the deck furniture with my fingers in my ears), we let it heat up for 5-10 minutes and threw everything on.
The grills are quality ones, and the setup is great, but they just didn’t get hot enough despite being cranked to high the whole time. Against every instinct, I had to lower the cover for a bit.
After a few minutes, I opened the lid, flipped everything and cooked with the uncovered for another 5-10 minutes.
After everything had some good marks on both sides, we loaded onto platters and made the trip back up to the condo. The kidneys had a remarkably mild smell considering how strong organ meat can smell when cooked.
The grilled gator was tender and full of flavor. Because it is served in so many fried preparations, usually using the gristle-heavy cheap cuts, gator gets a bad rep. I honestly think a piccata with gator fillets would be incredible after how good the grilled version was.
The kidneys were interesting. The flavor of beef kidneys reminded me of gamy lamb, so I assumed that lamb kidneys would be like mega-gamy lamb. I ended up being incorrect for a change, and they weren’t too bad; a little rubbery with some mild liver/organ meat flavor, complimented well with an acidic sauce. Unfortunately the arugala and lime aioli I made broke while I was at the grill which was a bit of a bummer. File lamb kidneys in the “I’m glad I tried it but I’ll pass on thirds” category.
The best item, which came together entirely while I was at the grill so I can’t take credit (though I will if you offer it), was Tim’s fried gator nuggets. Salty, tender, crispy, well seasoned with Old Bay and served with a garlic mayo, friggin’ delicious from a friggin’ jerk
We will need to experiment with gator some more on our next visit, along with whatever else Jimmy P’s has to offer. Really good.
Will try to break up the WCICs with some cookies or mac & cheese or something next week. However, there are definitely some good meals in the queue after picking up 40 lbs misc. cow parts from Uncle Billy last weekend in Vermont. Not to mention the bag of lamb hearts and tongues from David at Snow Farm that was left for me to pick up in Lexington, MA. You end up with a lot of awesome random food when you write a random food blog.