|by Chef Justin Timineri
Florida's Culinary Ambassador
Alligator is an exotic meat from Florida and is favored in cuisines around the world. American alligators are not an endangered species. Successful management by farmers and regulators resulted in them being removed from the endangered list in 1987.
Mild-flavored alligator meat is versatile and can be easily substituted in most recipes for chicken, veal or fish. Alligator is a lean meat, low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein. It is available in a variety of cuts, including tail meat fillets, ribs, nuggets and wings.
Tail meat, the choicest cut, is a mild-flavored, extra-lean white meat with a light-grained texture similar to veal. The ribs, nuggets and wings are darker meat with a stronger taste and texture, similar to pork shoulder. Alligator meat is commonly purchased frozen but can be obtained fresh.
It is relatively easy to purchase alligator meat in Florida. Most seafood markets carry Florida alligator, but if not, ask the manager to order some. Alligator can be found on the menu at seafood restaurants around the state.
More often than not, alligator is breaded, then deep fried. This is a great way to eat alligator, however, many prefer to sauté the meat with little oil because it is not only healthier, but the actual flavor of the meat can be better tasted. Alligator meat is very versatile to cook with and can be used in just about any recipe. Try buying pre-tenderized meat—it makes a huge difference in texture and cooking time.
ALLIGATOR SCALOPPINI WITH SAUCE DIJON
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound Florida alligator fillets, thinly sliced
or pounded thin
2 tablespoons Florida shallots, finely chopped
1⁄4 cup brandy
1 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
3⁄4 cup milk
3 tablespoons coarse-grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped Florida parsley
Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add alligator meat and sauté quickly, 1 minute per side. Remove and keep warm. Add shallots to skillet and sauté 2 minutes. Add brandy to skillet and deglaze by stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of pan. Stir in soup, milk, mustard and parsley. Simmer over low heat until sauce is smooth and thick. To serve, spoon Dijon sauce over alligator fillets.
GATOR BURGERS WITH SAUTÉED FLORIDA PEPPERS
1 pound ground Florida alligator meat
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Florida onion, finely chopped
1⁄3 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red Florida bell pepper, cut into strips
1 green Florida bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow Florida bell pepper, cut into strips
1 Florida onion, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
French bread slices or rolls
Preheat grill. In a bowl, combine alligator meat, egg, onion, salt and pepper, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Mixture will be very moist. Shape into 4 patties, each ½-inch thick. Cover and set aside. Heat the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper strips, and sauté until tender. Season to taste; reduce heat and keep warm. Grill meat patties for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat until cooked through, turning once. Serve open-face on French bread slices or in a roll, top with sautéed onion and peppers.
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