Since moving to gator country, I’ve been curious as to why the animal’s meat is almost exclusively served fried. Although the stray stewed, grilled or braised alligator dish will occasionally appear on a restaurant menu – New Orleans’ Mandina’s has reportedly subjected gator to its meunière treatment – most alligator available for ordering takes the form of a crispy nugget.
“It’s one of the tougher white meats,” explains Damion Norton, chef of Ford’s Oyster House & Cajun Kitchen in Greenville. “I think it tastes better fried.”
While I’d always assumed the ubiquitous fried gator appetizer reflected the product sold to commercial kitchens, Norton says his alligator meat arrives in much larger pieces which he then cuts down.
For his version of “gator bites”, served with remoulade, Norton soaks the meat in buttermilk before frying.
“We sell a lot of it,” he says.