Foodstuff: Alligator Meat
I have eaten Alligator meat many times. The first time was at a roadside stand just outside ‘Gator World’ (I think it was called) in Florida about twenty years ago and, since then, all my other experiences have been in restaurants, most of which, as best as I recall, were of the ‘Cajun variety. Alligator meat has yet to appear in local stores but I was recently in Rankin Inlet over on the eastern shores of Hudson’s Bay and I came across a half-dozen packages in the freezer section of a nearby supermarket. Luckily, my hotel room had a fridge with a freezer and I was able to grab a couple to bring home with me…
Anyway, the meat I purchased is a product of Palmetto, Louisiana. I have never visited that state but I would say that Alligator is probably even more widely used in cookery there than it is in Florida. I was a little dismayed to see that the package described the product as ‘Marinated Alligator Meat’ as I would much prefer purchasing an unadulterated variety but, as it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The ingredients, rather vaguely, indicate the use of ‘extracts of herbs and spices’ but the aroma, and subsequently the taste, really didn’t give any hint of anything in particular.
Here you can see the flesh in a bit more of a close-up view. As you will note, it looks remarkably like chicken meat, pinkish like the breast meat in places, more like thigh meat in others. There wasn’t much fat adhering to the flesh and one of the touted benefits of Alligator meat is that it is very lean with a high protein content.
As for the taste?
Well… you are probably expecting me to say that it ‘tastes like chicken’… and, indeed, that was my impression the very first time I tried it. However, just about every time I have had Alligator, it has been deep-fried (usually breaded) with Cajun spices which do rather tend to mask some of the more subtle flavours. On trying a bit of unseasoned meat after quickly pan-frying it, it is clear that there is a bit more going on than there is in the breast of a typical super-market chicken… a chicken taste is apparent but there is also an underlying ‘fishy’ taste that gives the flesh a whole other dimension. The texture, though, is very like chicken breast although it is chewier than one usually encounters with supermarket breast meat… more like a mature, free range bird, I would say.
Because of the similarity, Alligator Meat can pretty much be used in any sort of preparation calling for chicken. Above, you can see some cubes that I pan-grilled Teriyaki style. Basically, I would say, as long as you make allowances for the lean quality of the flesh, you can prepare it almost any way you would chicken, veal, or even pork. I am limited, at present, having only a couple of pounds to work with, but I will be posting some of my experiments in due course…