The Other, Other White Meat Invades the Beloved Dish
You read that right-the chicken is in quotes. People often make sweeping generalizations about certain animals tasting like chicken. In some cases this is true, but many times it shows laziness and lack of imagination with describing the way something tastes. This week I decided to prepare an ever increasingly popular chicken dish, using a certain critter that many of you are very familiar with…an animal that dwells in the fears and imaginations of folks far and wide. I am talking about the dish Chicken and Waffles. And I am talking about Alligator mississippiensis or the American Alligator. That’s right… I am going to put gator on top of waffles because I can.
Alligator is often described as tasting just like chicken. We’re talking about an animal with a bite force of 3000lbs (yikes!). We’re talking about an animal that is 37 million years old, making them officially living dinosaurs. We’re talking about an animal that has night vision and can move up to 20 mph in the water. “Tastes like chicken” doesn’t give this beast the proper respect it deserves. To me, alligator taste like a cocktail of chicken, rabbit, crab and calamari. A flavor hard to pinpoint but that’s the best I could come up with. Being born and raised in Louisiana, I am very familiar with eating gator, along with other folks from Florida, and to a lesser extent, other coastal southern states.
This is farmed raised gator from Louisiana. This meat comes from the tail section or “tenderloin” of the gator. The meat from the arms (aka wings) and the body are also edible, but they are more tough and better suited for braising. This meat can be ordered online or found in ethnic supermarkets. Gator meat is high in protein and very low in fat. Alligator is also easy to farm which makes it sustainable. Given all these facts, Americans should overcome their fears and get on board the gator train.
Soak the gator in a buttermilk/brine mixture, that contains 2 cups buttermilk, 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tbsp of sriracha sauce, and 1 tsp cayenne pepper. By combining the salt with the buttermilk you’re killing two birds with one stone; you’re brining the gator and letting the buttermilk tenderize it. Buttermilk contains a combination of acids and enzymes that slowly tenderize meat. Let this soak for about 6 hours or overnight if you wish. To brush up on your brining knowledge click here.
After six hours, remove the meat from the buttermilk and toss it in the dry batter. For the batter I use: 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 tbsp paprika, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 1 tbsp dried thyme, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp onion powder, 2 tsp kosher salt, and 2 tsp black pepper. Typically, in a place like Louisiana, they will fry in cornmeal. I like a 50/50 mixture of corn and wheat flour and I’ll explain why. The wheat or all purpose flour contains gluten proteins which contribute to the chewiness and elasticity in the crust. It is also better at absorbing moisture and fat than other grains, as well as clings to the protein better. Corn flour improves crispness because it’s larger particles are less absorbent.
Deep fry at 375 degrees for 3 minutes or until golden brown on the outside. For some tips on deep frying click here. I don’t believe in counter top deep fryers. At home I use a stock or a sauce pot with a deep fry thermometer.
Still not sold on chomping down on gator? This is still a very good recipe and chicken could easily be substituted. Finally, place the fried gator on top of your favorite waffle, drizzle with honey sriracha mayonnaise (recipe below), and top with fresh chopped chives. See you later…as the saying goes.
Gator and Waffles with Honey Sriracha Mayo
1 lb farm raised alligator
2 cups of buttermilk
1 1/2 tbsp plus 2 tsp of kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp sriracha sauce
1 cup of corn flour
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup mayonnaise
canola oil for deep frying
waffle of your choice
chopped fresh chives, for garnish
For the honey sriracha mayo:
Combine the mayo with the honey and 1 tbsp of sriracha sauce. Set aside.
For the gator:
Combine the buttermilk with 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt, cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp sriracha sauce, and add the gator. Let the gator soak anywhere from six hours to overnight. To make the batter, combine the corn and all purpose flour with 2 tsp salt, dried herbs, 1 tbsp paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Remove gator from buttermilk and coat with batter. Deep fry at 375 degrees for about 3 minutes or until golden on outside.
Plate the waffle. Top with the gator, drizzle with the honey sriracha mayo and garnish with fresh chives.