Last week I picked up a cut of alligator meat at The Meat House. If you haven’t been or aren’t lucky enough to have one of these neighborhood butchers within driving distance, I’m hoping that you have an equivalent food shop nearby. Picture a medium size gourmet market run by down to earth and friendly staff, shelves brimming with locally produced snack foods and side dishes, and of course almost any meat you can think of. Ostrich, kangaroo, pheasant, venison sausage accented with blueberry and marinated in Pinot Noir…these are some of the meats you’ll find along with the full range of beef cuts. Each first time customer gets a marinaded beef tip to cook at home and taste. After sampling their grilled beef and chicken pieces and doing a copious amount of gawking, we ended up walking out with some alligator. We asked about rattle snake and although they didn’t have it, the checkout guy said they could procure it if we wished.
Once back home, lump of alligator on the counter, reality set in. Just how are we going to cook it? Sure we ate it served in a restaurant a few times and it tasted good but how to recreate this experience? Could I just toss it onto the grill like a steak or broil it like a piece of Haddock in the oven? After some targeted Googling, here’s a simple recipe I settled on courtesy of texasbarbeques.com:
2 cups milk for marinade
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Place milk in a deep bowl. Add pepper flakes and rosemary. Season meat with black and cayenne pepper. Place meat in bowl to
marinade between 3-4 hours. Letting it soak in milk draws out the gamey flavor that would otherwise overpower your taste buds.
Remove meat from marinade. Pat meat dry. Sprinkle more red and black pepper to meat, brush with olive oil and grill 10 minutes on each side over high flame.
It helps to remember that you’re eating a creature that slithered around in mucky swamp water feeding on birds and fish. Alligators have thick skin and powerful tails propelled by lots of muscle. This tail meat is what you’ll be feasting on. The spices give the meat a Cajun twist making it excellent with Spanish rice or pilaf. I hate to propagate the cliché but it does taste like chicken only it’s tougher and slightly chewier. The spice combination definitely gives it a needed kick because eating it plain would be extremely bland. Most interestingly, as it was cooking, I detected the aroma of springtime aqua sweetness. Otherwise the raw meat doesn’t have an odor. I paired this dish with a Pacific Rim Reisling yielding a lively bouquet, mouthfeel, and zip on the palate that heartily jousted well with the spices.
photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky