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Looking for crawfish, alligator or tasso ham? Here's our guide to our favorite Cajun and Creole stores

Break out the beads, crank up the volume on Trombone Shorty and check out our four favorite online stores selling delicious Creole and Cajun ingredients.

Imagine yourself in the following scenario. You’re throwing a Mardi Gras-themed party and plan on serving up a Louisiana-inspired menu of crawfish etouffeé, fried alligator po'boys and tasso-studded dirty rice. Sounds delicious, right? There’s just one problem: You don’t live near Louisiana and get funny looks from the staff in your local supermarket when you ask about alligator meat or tasso ham.

Fortunately, the internet has made the world much smaller over the past 20 years, and with advances in refrigerated packaging, you can now get nearly any raw or prepared food shipped to your doorstep in under 48 hours. But some online retailers are better than others, so you'll want to be sure you're getting the good stuff. 

Here are our favorite four online shops.

Louisiana Crawfish Company
When the urge to throw a crawfish boil hits, know that Louisiana Crawfish Company ships live mudbugs anywhere in the U.S. Its online store offers live and boiled crawfish, alligator, boudin, and fresh seafood. No word if it ships live crawfish beyond the typical season of late February through early June, but the website touts “anywhere, anytime, any quantity.” The selection of specialty foods offered by Louisiana Crawfish Company is perhaps the most extensive of any site we found. Fresh Gulf seafood, spices, prepared gumbos and even king cake are all available for purchase; the company even offers same day shipping on orders received before 4:00 p.m. CST Monday through Friday.
Cajun Specialty Meats
Tucked inside an oversized strip mall in suburban Atlanta, the storefront of Cajun Specialty Meats boasts an extraordinary selection of fresh and cured meats and sausages, which can be shipped across the country. For homesick Louisiana transplants, it also sell pantry staples like Zatarain’s Creole mustard, Steen’s cane syrup and an impressive array of Zapps’ potato chips. A look inside its freezer reveals game birds like quail and pheasant, crawfish tails, and alligator tail meat. One of its most popular selections is its turducken, which you can find stuffed with Southern cornbread and Cajun sausage, shrimp or crawfish etouffeé, or simply all sausage. But perhaps the coup de gras is the Fowl de Cochon: a turducken and cornbread dressing stuffed inside of a 50-pound boneless suckling pig. It serves 110 people, in case you have friends and family that always try to help themselves to extra leftovers.
Poche’s Market and Smokehouse
Founded in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana in 1962, Poche’s Market and Smokehouse specializes in cured and smoked Cajun meats. Perhaps most famous is its andouille sausage, which features a leaner meat blend and a more coarse grind than most. Stuffed into a casing that’s nearly two inches in diameter, Poche’s andouille has a pronounced smokiness that will take your gumbo and jambalaya game to the next level. While Poche’s does sell seafood items like crawfish pie and gumbo, meat is its main attraction. Tasso ham, stuffed pork, alligator, and chaurice — a spicy Creole sausage seasoned with fresh vegetables — are all available for shipping.

Cajun Grocer
This Louisiana-based company is a home away from home for people who crave authentic Cajun and creole ingredients. It is well known for its turduken — a turkey stuffed with duck and chicken — but it also carries favorites, such as red beans and rice, coffee and blackening seasonings. Orders can be easily placed online.

Ready to get cooking? Here are some of our favorite Cajun and Creole recipes:
Fried Alligator with Srirancha Sauce
Cajun Crackers
Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
Sheet Pan New Orleans BBQ Shrimp
Instant Pot Jambalaya
Cajun Red Beans and Rice
Shrimp and Crawfish Pho
Shrimp Clemenceau

Photo Credit (fried alligator): Maura Friedman
Photo Credit (ham): Kirsty/Flickr 
Photo Credit (catfish): Hungry Dudes/Flickr (license)

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Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”