By Mark Cotton
Cold, Hard Football Facts tailgate chef

Houston-New Orleans is our Game of the Week this week on It's also a big clash of Southern culture and cuisine. So we thought worth a little extra effort this week at tailgate team.

This recipe calls for alligator. But we understand alligator is not easy to come by if you don't live, say, in the Atchafalaya Basin. So you can substitute with chicken or pork. Then just tell people it's alligator. How the hell will they now? Plus, the spices and condiments are really what give this dish its swampy spark of flavor, anyway.

Alligator, for its part, is one of those really misunderstood ingredients. It's not something that can be easily raised in some parts of the country. So if it is found outside of the Deep South, it's usally at one of those restaurants where “flair” is part of the uniform. And when you do find it, it tends to show up at the table as unrecognizable deep-fried nuggets.

Now don't get us wrong. The No. 1 rule of Cold, Hard Football Facts Fight Club is that there is nothing wrong with deep-fried anything. However, in this case, the alligator  usually shows up with all the flavor of a high school McNugget on the last day of class when the school cafeteria has run out of budget for salt, pepper and, our favorite health food, MSG.

Even worse, it’s usually ordered by a table full of people who are into their third pitcher of watery margaritas who think they are being “edgy” as they talk about how much they like Jersey Shore or those stupid books with sparkly vampires in them. A truly tragic end for an animal that can take down a deer or a football fan with one bite.
We'lll learn Sunday that New Orleans still has it, or that Houston is truly a force to be feared this year. So in honor of two great cities, we present to you a recipe that does justice to the mighty alligator as well as the great culinary legacies of both cities.

Alligator tacos give you the Tex-Mex flair known and loved in Houston with the Cajun flavors that make New Orleans a place that food lovers all over the world dream about. Served with Cajun salsa and guacamole, it’s a dish worthy of this great NFL match-up.

2 lbs. alligator tail (you can substitute with chicken if, you know, your local supermarket isn't stocked with alligator meat)
2 tablespoons fresh black pepper
½ tablespoon sea salt
1 cup of dark or amber beer.
1 cup buttermilk
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
Olive oil, salt and pepper for grilling.

Combine all the ingredients into an airtight container and marinate overnight. Drain and pat dry. Heat your grill to high and brush olive oil on one side with a sprinkle of salt. Grill, oil side down for 10 minutes, oiling and salting the other side of the meat just before turning. Grill for 10 more minutes and remove from heat. The internal temperature should be 160 degrees. Let the tail rest for 10 minutes covered before slicing.

Cajun Salsa
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 or 3 limes
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until needed.

Cajun Guacamole
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Pulp of 2 or 3 avocados, mashed, pits reserved
1 tomato, finely chopped
Juice from 2 limes
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Place avocado pits in mixture to keep it fresh. Refrigerate. Remove pits when ready to serve.
Serve in warm tortillas with cheese.