They say crocodile tastes like chicken, but I had never tried it myself to confirm. When I saw frozen crocodile tail fillet on sale (still not cheap by the way at 60 euros/kilo or US$ 32.50/lb), I remembered reading a post on That Other Cooking Blog about crocodile sous-vide. Paul of said blog had experimented with cooking crocodile tail fillet sous-vide to find out the right temperature to cook it at, 55ºC/131ºF. And so I picked it up and decided to have some fun with the plating. Crocodiles make me think of the Everglades and thus of a swamp, and so I decided to create a ‘swamp’ on the plate with a murkish green ‘river’ made out of salsa verde, a ‘beach’ made of celeriac puree and ‘dead trees’ made of various root vegetables. The crocodile is sunning on the ‘beach’ with its tail hanging in the ‘river’. 🙂
The combination of the tender juicy crocodile meat with the freshness of the salsa verde and the earthiness of the root vegetables worked very well.
This is the raw crocodile meat up close. Saying it tastes like chicken doesn’t do it justice. Like chicken, it has a fairly mild flavor. I like the texture of crocodile tail fillet better, as it is more ‘meaty’ without being more tough. The flavor is not exactly like chicken, but a bit like fish. I’d say the texture and flavor are somewhere in between chicken and swordfish.
I prepared this dish twice already, I liked it that much. The first time I went with Paul’s latest try and cooked it sous-vide for 3 hours at 55ºC/131ºF. It was juicy and tender, but I thought that it could use some more time at the same temperature. A higher temperature would turn it dry, at a lower temperature it won’t become tender. I tried it for 12 hours at 55ºC/131ºF, and that was perfect. It is still good at 3 hours if you are in a hurry, but if you have the time let it go for 8-12 hours.
600 grams (1.3 lbs) crocodile steak fillet, cut into 4 portions
8.4 grams (1 1/8 tsp) salt [1.4%]
3.6 grams (7/8 tsp) sugar [0.6%]
different types and colors of root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, chervil roots
extra virgin olive oil
For the salsa verde
50 grams (1.8 oz) flat parsley leaves
120 ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and dried
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
As crocodile tail fillet is prone to become dry, it is best to dry cure it before cooking. For most accurate results, weigh the crocodile meat and calculate 1.4% for the salt and 0.6% for the sugar to be used. Combine the salt and sugar in a small bowl and stir to mix.
About an hour before you would like to serve the crocodile, peel the root vegetables and trim them so they can stand upright. Larger root vegetables can also be cut into chunks if a whole one is too big for a single serving. I used three different colors of carrots: small orange ones, large yellow carrots and large purple carrots.
Toss the root vegetables with olive oil and roast them in the oven at 225ºC/440ºF for about 30 minutes. It is okay if the thin ends burn just a little, that will make them look more like dead trees 🙂
We enjoyed this with a full-bodied complex white. A bit of oak is okay but not required. The full body is needed to go with the meatiness, the complexity is needed to handle the wide flavor profile of the root vegetables and salsa verde.
If you’ve ever been invited to a “borrel”, a Dutch cocktail party after work or at a ‘function’, chances are that one type of snacks that was served were “bitterballen”. The word “bitter” does not refer to the taste of the balls themselves but of the alcoholic beverages they used to be consumed with: bitter herb beverages that are now often referred to as digestifs. Nowadays, the most common drink at a borrel is beer. Most bitterballen are made in a factory and sold frozen, but making your own is more fun and definitely more impressive. It may also be your only option if you’d like to enjoy these tasty snacks outside of the Netherlands. “Kroketten” (croquettes) are made the same way, just in a different shape.