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The Gator Finds a Place at the Tailgate ;-)

The Count of Merkur Cristo

B&B's Emperor of Emojis
Football fans...tailgating has become a tradition and/or 'ole family recipe' (and maybe some choice, good-natured 'trashtalking' words for others
),...everybody has their choice of spice, rub, wood & fire, but have you tried gator?

"Alligator, long a food source for Louisianians, has become more popular nationally. But its big moment comes at an annual football matchup in Baton Rouge".

By Christina Morales - NY Times - Nov. 30, 2021


John Folse, a chef and author of cookbooks about Cajun and Creole cuisine, roasts a whole alligator for the annual football game between the Louisiana State University Tigers and the University of Florida Gators.

Baton Rouge, La. — The members of Hoppy’s Corner Tiger Tailgate have gathered in some fashion at the same spot across the street from Tiger Stadium for nearly every Louisiana State University home football game since the 1970s. But their tradition of roasting whole alligators didn’t begin until about 12 years ago, as a way of teasing fans of the University of Florida Gators.

“I had to get it out of my ditch,” joked Lance Cortez, 41, of Thibodaux, La., on a chilly Saturday in October, as he rubbed Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning and garlic powder on a wild alligator he’d lugged to the tailgate in a cooler. A patch of skin left on its back spelled L.S.U.
Mr. Cortez’s gator and another, larger farm-raised one were tied down to a homemade rotisserie built with a windshield-wiper motor. The reptiles, their mouths stuffed with apples, would spin for hours over hot coals.

In Baton Rouge, where the food at the tailgate is almost as important as the game, alligator — chargrilled, blackened, fried, in a stew or roasted whole — is both a specialty and an opportunity to tease out-of-town Gators fans.

“I don’t think there’s more gator eaten than this weekend,” John Folse, a Louisiana chef and author of books on Cajun and Creole cuisine, said as he primed his own whole roasted alligator for the game, injecting the white-fleshed, mild-flavored meat with a brining liquid until it swelled, and dousing the alligator with beer.


Mr. Folse preparing a whole alligator by rubbing in his spice blend.

Alligator meat, which looks and tastes (yes) like chicken, has always been a food source in Louisiana; its use as an ingredient dates back to the state’s Native American tribes. But across the country, it has become more popular as a novelty item on menus as modern farming methods have increased accessibility to the meat.

For years, wild alligators were often hunted for their hides — used in luxury goods — as well as their meat, and uncontrolled hunting led to a decline in the population. Alligator was classified as endangered in 1967 under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Management efforts in the 1970s and ’80s helped replenish wild alligator, and farms were created to produce more sustainable hides and meat.

“Trapping and alligator hunting and fishing, that’s what you had to make a living,” said Joe Autin, 56, a third-generation alligator hunter in Cut Off, La. “You didn’t have the oil field or lots of places to have jobs. You made a living off the land.”

Alligator hunting season runs from late August through October here, but when Hurricane Ida battered Louisiana in August, the marsh that Mr. Autin frequents was torn up, and this year, he hasn’t been able to make his usual living.

In the last 50 years, farming and hunting regulations have helped to increase the alligator population to about two million, from 100,000, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries.

A wild alligator struggles all its life in a fight for territory and food, Mr. Folse said, which makes its meat tougher. Farmed alligator is raised on a regular diet that it doesn’t have to work too much for. It is also slaughtered when it reaches a specific size, at least three feet long.

The farmed meat is now more reliably consistent than wild alligator. Processing facilities like Riceland Crawfish in Eunice, La., soften the meat even further using a mechanical tenderizer with rotary blades before distributing it to suppliers.

The most tender cuts of alligator come from the tail and jaw, Mr. Folse said. Texture is critical when cooking alligator; without special preparation, the meat can be chewy.

Riceland Crawfish, as the name suggests, started off processing crawfish, said Doug Guillory, 43, an owner. But during the 1990s his father began to clean wild-caught alligator. Over the last 15 years, sales of alligator have become a significant portion of the family-owned business.

Most people eat alligator tail meat in bite-size pieces that are marinated, battered and deep-fried like a chicken nugget. But throughout Louisiana, alligator is eaten in dozens of other ways.

At Prejean’s, a Cajun restaurant in Lafayette, La., alligator legs are some of the biggest sellers year-round, said Matthew Mead, 36, the general manager. They are marinated in buttermilk for at least three hours, then breaded and fried like a chicken wing. The gator’s juices glisten, as someone bites through.

Roux 61, in Baton Rouge, revels in serving alligator in unconventional ways while paying homage to Louisiana’s food culture, said Joshua Hebert, 36, the restaurant’s chef and a managing partner. On game day, he served a blackened alligator taco special with locally made tortillas and pickled green tomatoes.


Roux 61, a restaurant in Baton Rouge, La., serves about 200 pounds of alligator during the Tigers-Gators game.


Joshua Hebert, the chef and a managing partner of Roux 61, helps prepare a rich shrimp-and-alligator-sausage cheesecake and fried alligator daily.


Blackened alligator tacos with pickled green tomatoes are served as a special at Roux 61 during the Tigers-Gators game.

Diners dip their fried gator bites into Roux sauce, the restaurant’s take on a mayo and ketchup-based Louisiana condiment that is typically paired with seafood.

Alligator has held a place in Native American life in this region for hundreds of years. In the origin story of its alligator clan, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, in the southwestern part of the state, tells how some members found an alligator stuck in the hole of a pond that had dried up. The alligator asked them to help it return to a nearby river, and promised that once it regained its strength there, it would reward them.

Read More: Alligator in Louisiana

"Always do barbecue right; this will gratify some people [and—well], astonish the rest". Mark Twain

Old Hippie

Somewhere between 61 and dead
I was once at a public gathering that featured kiosks from various area organizations. The pork producers' council had theirs with a banner reading, "Pork: The Other White Meat."

Across the aisle an entrepreneur had set up a stand offering samples of gator, with the banner, "Gator: The Other Green Meat."

I was amused. It wasn't bad but it wasn't too impressive, either.

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