I have officially eaten alligator! Here is how my culinary adventure went down:
Step one: My husband and I ordered 2 pounds of alligator meat from this quirky little store/meat market that’s just a few blocks from our house. The meat cost $11.99 a pound. I honestly thought that it would have cost more, or that I would have been required to order more at one time. I placed my order on Tuesday and the meat was in by Friday.
Step two: We picked up the meat just before heading out of town to the warrior dash and stashed it in the freezer untill we could find time to cook it. I was super excited to pick it up! Just purchasing it was an adventure! I chatted with the meat guy about my plans for the alligator, another customer got into the idea and wanted to order some himself, the check out clerk shared her disgust for the idea of eating such an animal.
Step three: We decided what we were going to do with the meat. The plan was to use half of it to make gumbo, and the other half we would pan fry. We read several recipes online and watched a bunch of YouTube videos about how to make traditional gumbo. We went with a video done by Dale Deibler, with a cameo appearance of his lovely wife helping him keep the recipe straight. We picked this guy ‘s video for several reasons; he looked to have everything really organized and easy to follow, he didn’t need to read a script so we knew he had made this gumbo a time or two, and he was wearing suspenders. I highly recommend his video if you are planning to make gumbo for the first time. Mr. Deibler makes 5 gallons of gumbo, using 5 pounds of alligator in the video. I just reduced everything to work with my 1 pound of alligator meat that was alloted to the gumbo mission. It is ten minutes long, a little slow… but I just love the way he says “Taste so good”. AND by the way, if you visit this dude’s web page you will see that his family business offers to take people on alligator hunts! I think that might be in my future!!!
Step four: Buying ingredients. (I copied down the ingredients while Dale showed them off in the video…. accept, he said that butter would be needed and he never seemed to use butter). I found everything extremely easy to find except the okra. I wanted fresh okra, like what Dale uses in the video but couldn’t find any. So I had to ask the clerk at Safeway what was up with no okra… we discovered that the did indeed carry okra, but it was either pickled or frozen. I went with a bag of frozen. Ta-da!
Step five: I began cooking! I was at my parent’s house and everyone wanted to question what I was doing. They kept asking if I was sure it should be done the way I was doing it… um… guys… NO. First time. Some of the anxious ideas I received; bigger pot, not enough chicken broth, too much pepper, did you remember the tabasco, you need more okra in there, are you sure you browned the gator meat good enough, you got it started too late… and so on. BUT! I was in an easy-going/good mood today and just smiled and reassured everyone that our adventure was gonna go great!
I got all the veggies, spices and sausage in to the pot, added the broth and got it heating up. It smelled great and was pretty. Don’t you think?
Next, I browned the gator and added it to the pot. The most exciting part was the making the roux, so let’s make it a step all on its own.
Step six: Roux. The roux is supposidly very important for the gumbo. I was excited to make the roux because it needs to be cooked on the hottest possible temperature, which I always want to do, but end up messing the food up because… that’s not the way your supposed to do it for most things . I watched several you tube videos about making roux.
Our roux, as you know because you watched the video, was made with equal parts of olive oil and flour. You start out with just hot oil in a heavy cast iron pan, then add the flower, you have to mix the roux constantly or it will burn. The mixture was a pretty yellow color and bubbled a lot as I mixed in the flour. After about five minutes the roux began to calm down a bit. and darken in color. As seen in my you tube video the roux began to thicken up more and turn a chocolate-brown color. At this point, the smoke alarm went off, and I got anxious. I didn’t want to ruin my first roux! Jesse came over and opened windows/doors and turned on the stove fan. He told me to not worry, and that I could just make a new one if I messed this batch up. Also, at this point the roux is supposed to be added to the pot of other goodies. Jesse helped with this, thank goodness. When the roux hit the other mixture it hissed and bubbled like crazy! I got a few little burns from it spitting all over the place.
Step seven: Let it cook in the pot on low for a while. We let ours cook about forty minutes. I had to keep stirring the gumbo because the pot we were using was pretty thin and it wanted to stick to the bottom even though we had it on low. Sadly, the brown roux made my gumbo ugly, but it still smelled pretty tasty.
While it cooked I made rice in my handy rice cooker, and Jesse pan-fried the rest of our gator meat. He salt and peppered the meat, dredged it in flower, then dipped it in a cream/hot sauce mixture, re flowered it and fried it up in oil.
Step eight: EAT!
This was a great adventure! But, sadly, I must say I don’t think I am a huge alligator meat fan. It was a very interesting texture, the meat seemed to be held together by a spiderweb of soft, but somewhat elastic, strings. The meat in a beef steak now seems strangely organized in comparison. The meat we had was in a bunch of pieces. Some of the pieces had an after taste that reminded me of catfish, some of them didn’t. I think that the fishy flavored pieces contained more fat. In my self-education of alligator meat I learned that if the fat was not trimmed well the meat tasted awful.
I also, do not think that I am much of a gumbo fan in general. The base of the gumbo was just too heavy and smokey flavored for me. Perhaps I made it wrong? I do not have anything to compare it to. Jesse said it tasted like gumbo he has had before. I will try it again if the opportunity ever arrises.
All in all, this experience still gets two thumbs up because I had a blast trying something new. Now! get out there and order some alligator meat if you haven’t had any yet! good luck!