I went by the office of Exotic Meat Market recently and they had just received a shipment of whole alligators. I was able to look through their stock and get the smallest one they had, weighing 5.88 pounds, and it fit in my freezer which had been a concern.
Squirrel and Bug, my granddaughters, were going to be visiting and I hoped the alligator would be a hit with them. The last time I visited them at their home we cooked lobster and dungeness crab and I wanted a fun addition to our cooking experiences together.
|Squirrel and Bug with the small alligator.|
|We were impressed with the many small and very sharp teeth.|
I've read that the best alligator meat is in the tail and it was fun to examine a whole alligator and see how the meat was proportioned. Even in this small alligator, I was surprised at how much meat was in the tail and how easy it was to cut up. I cut the tail into sections, then cut the meat off the bone in strips and put them in vacuum sealed pouches for the sous vide. The only add-ins for the sous vide were a little bit of oil and salt and pepper. I also cut off the four legs and put them in vacuum sealed bags for the sous vide.
There is actually quite a bit of meat on this small alligator.
|The tail, where the majority of the meat is found.|
A section of the tail cut into thinner pieces. Another section of the tail is below.
|Some of the tail meat in a vacuum sealed bag for the sous vide.|
I knew from past experience that alligator is very mild and is ruined if over-cooked. So I put the sous vide at 55 degrees Centigrade and cooked the meat for just under an hour. When finished I cut the tail into bite-sized pieces.
|Part of the the tail sliced into bite-sized pieces.|
|Part of the tail (left), the two hind legs, the end of the tail and the two front legs, all out of the sous vide vacuum-sealed bag. I added cayenne pepper for a little bit of heat. The meat was very moist and just fell off the alligator legs.|
I put the rest of the carcass on my gas grill, with olive oil, salt and pepper and cooked it for a short time. The grill added some smoky flavor and crispy pieces. When it was finished, the carcass was easily cut into sections with kitchen shears.
|A portion of the carcass that was grilled and cut up into pieces.|
The grilled carcass was good. We were able to pick up the pieces with our hands and gnaw the meat off the bones. It was a nice alternative to the sous vide.
I was blown away by how good the sous vide cooked meat was. The tail sections had the look, texture and plump pop of lobster tail. It is very mild, had no gaminess at all, and has a taste profile somewhere between chicken and lobster. Bug, my youngest granddaughter, couldn't get enough, she kept going back for more. I too, was taken by it. Even Rachael and Nate who have been vegan for about three months ventured to try it and had multiple helpings.
I'm not sure if small alligator is more tender than large alligator, or if this was just fresher than prior alligator I've had, but the meat was fabulous. The small alligator was also easy to carve up for cooking, much more so than other carcasses I've worked with. And because it is not gamy at all, it does not require any brining.
For anyone venturing into exotic meat for the first time, this would be a wonderful starter. It is easy to prepare, easy to cook, tastes great and has a wonderful exotic look.