If you can catch one, a gator is a tasty meal

By Joyce Kramer

When you look at an alligator, I doubt that having him for supper is the first thing that comes to mind. However, he is a tasty customer and if he is not looking at you as his dinner, you could enjoy the meal.

Alligator meat is an exotic delicacy. Most gator meat that is produced in America comes from those who farm this reptile. The meat from these farms, which are all along the southern coast, are sold to butchers in large freezer bags, thus guaranteeing freshness, for keeping the meat very cold and freezing is the secret to having the texture and taste at is best.

The meat from a gator is considered to be healthier than domestic chicken, especially when it comes to comparing cholesterol and fat content. Thus, the alligator meat that is sold commercially is from animals that have been fed a special diet to ensure the best nutrition, sort of like cows and pigs that receive special feed with certain nutrients to ensure a top quality product.

The tail section is the most commonly eaten part of the alligator. Tail meat is very similar to veal in texture and is said to taste like chicken. There is also a tenderloin portion to the alligator. This is located in the tubular section of the tail.

While the tail portion may be considered the best, there is also some demand for the darker, slightly tougher midsection meat. The taste is said to be close to a pork shoulder.

Also, some alligator meat enthusiasts enjoy the meat found in an alligator’s feet. This is often referred to as the “wing”. This piece resembles frog legs in texture and flavor.

Think you are interested and would like to try your hand at cooking some? Here are several recipes that are easy to make. The ingredients are common items that are stocked in most kitchens. However, I do recommend that you get your gator meat from a butcher or specialty section of the super market. This will ensure the best quality and lessen the chances for diseases. I am sure that there are several places, especially in Florida, so try this adventure in food.

The Gator Came to the Picnic Salad
No outdoor eating event is complete without the traditional potato salad. However, no one wants to keep making it the same each time. So, try this unusual and very tasty version of the traditional type.

2 pounds alligator meat, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 dash hot sauce to taste

3/4 teaspoon minced garlic, 2 cups chopped boiled potatoes with skins on, 1 cup Caesar salad dressing, 1 cup chopped red bell pepper, 3/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper

Cut alligator meat into bite-sized pieces. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat then add meat and cook for 5 minutes, turning once. Add pecans and garlic and cook an additional minute. Remove mixture from skillet and let cool. Combine the cooled meat with remaining ingredients. Mix well. Chill overnight

Chattahoochee River Alligator Ribs
Yes, alligators do have very tasty, tender “ribs”. Quite succulent and meaty too, Try these for your family party. 10 – 14 gator ribs 1 tablespoon salt 6 oz. barbecue sauce 1 tablespoon pepper 1 tablespoon garlic powder

Season alligator ribs. Place in crock pot. Pour barbecue sauce over them. Cover and cook until tender.

Tail on Fire Gator Chili
Don’t get scared by the long list of ingredients. They are just what you expect to be in the traditional bowl except for one rather interesting change— the meat.

1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 green bell pepper diced, 1 sweet onion diced, 2 pounds ground alligator meat, 1 – 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, 1 – 32 oz. can V8 vegetable juice, 1 – 15 oz. can black beans rinsed and drained, 1 – 15 oz. can kidney beans rinsed and drained, 1 tablespoon chipotle chilies chopped, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon celery salt.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in green pepper and onion. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and stir in alligator meat. Cook until meat is crumbly and evenly brown. Drain away any excess grease. Stir in crushed tomatoes, V8 vegetable juice, black beans, kidney beans and chipotle chili. Season with chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, smoked paprika, celery salt, ground ginger, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours. Stir in water if chili becomes too thick. Serve with hot sauce and homemade bread.

Caught in the Swamp Fried Gator
This is made in a similar way to fried chicken. However, I won’t tell you that it tastes like chicken! I’ll let you decide.

1 pound alligator meat cut into cubes, Flour for dredging, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 cup hot sauce, 1 bottle of ranch dressing for dipping.

Heat oil in a deep fryer to 350 degrees. Lightly season gator meat with salt and pepper before dredging in flour. Combine buttermilk and hot sauce. Dip gator meat into buttermilk and hot sauce mix, then into flour. Repeat once again. Place in deep fryer until golden brown, a couple of minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve with ranch dressing.

I hope that you try one of these recipes and enjoy!!

Joyce is a crewman and an officer in the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 83-Lake Seminole. She can be reached at kramers229aol.com

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