Whether blackened, fried, or simmered in sauce piquant, alligator meat is an ingredient loved by many in south Louisiana. But to help demystify it for those less adventurous eaters who may have never tried alligator before, we turned to Chef Nathan Richard, who has been gator hunting since he was a teenager in Thibodaux and cooks with it today at Cavan in Uptown New Orleans.
What part of an alligator can you eat?
I cook every part of an alligator. I’ve even tried their liver, which I don’t recommend having. I’ve tried the heart, which is actually pretty good. I’ve done multiple dinners where I’ve done nose to tail on the alligator. Not only can you eat them, but a lot of the alligator doesn’t go to waste. You can make back scratchers from the feet, and wallets and shoes from the skin.
What are some of your favorite ways to cook with alligator?
I like doing alligator chili. It’s one of my favorites. I love barbecuing the ribs if they’re big enough. I also like making alligator jerky out of the tenderloins of the gator.
How would you describe the flavor and texture of alligator to someone who’s never eaten it before?
Everybody says it tastes like chicken, but to me, it doesn’t taste like that at all. I think it has a very unique and different flavor. It tastes to me like that muddy, swampy water. That’s where they live, that’s where they breed, so to me, that’s what they should taste like—kind of like a catfish.
Where can you get alligator meat?
You can buy gator meat locally. You could find it at just about any supermarket here. There are a bunch of fish places all over south Louisiana and Mississippi and Texas. If you live somewhere like the Midwest, one of my favorite places to get it is cajungrocer.com.