Friday, March 4, 2011

Top Tips for Handling 'Gators

One of the delights we tasted at this year's Valentine to the Market Gala fundraiser at the Reading Terminal Market was Beck's 'Gator Gumbo.  Now everyone knows that a gumbo is a tradition of the New Orleans -- a spicy chicken or fish soup, transformed into a dense stew by the addition of a starchy thickening agent such as okra or rice. What you might not know, however, is that you can also make a gumbo using Alligator meat - unfortunately there isn't much demand for 'gator in Philly - yet! - so you can't currently buy this at any of the butchers at the Market...

Bill Beck flies in Andouille sausage, Crawfish and Alligator fresh from N'awlins for Beck's Cajun Cafe, his restaurant in the Reading Terminal Market.  In the run up to Mardi Gras he orders provisions sooper-dooper early because there's always a run on these traditional foodstuffs.  His alligator is farm-raised with the choicest cut harvested from the area between the hind quarter down to the tail.  Beck prefers to use alligator in sausage form, because it is already tenderized, and good to go for their DE-licious 'Gator Gumbo. 

For those who have not yet savored alligator, Bill describes 'gator  as having "the flavor profile of Italian sausage, but with a depth and sweetness that's unique.."  (You sure you're not talking about fine wine now..?)  In addition to his 'Gator Gumbo, Beck's also serves 'Gator Sausage on a Stick.  Bill confides that one of his fave recipes is a scallopini of alligator, flash-fried.

Bill shares his views on the choicest cuts...
Future plans include a 'Gator Cheesesteak.  Hmm.  Like the sound of that. Now that really would put Philly on the map.   We wonder what Ben Franklin would say to that?

He might well approve of the following excerpt from How to Wrestle Alligators: The Art of Manliness.  This useful article tells you everything you need to know to capture - and thus secure - your alligator steak.

"Step One: Getting on the Alligator’s Back

Possibly the most dangerous part of wrestling an alligator is getting on its back. Never attempt to jump an alligator from the side or from the front. Doing so is the easiest way to get bit. You want to approach the alligator from behind. If possible, have someone distract the animal so it doesn’t turn to keep an eye on you. However, if that’s not possible, take off your shirt and use it as a blindfold (or use a towel). Throw your shirt on the top of the gator’s head, making sure to cover its eyes. Without sight, the alligator is much slower to react."

Ok.  Perhaps it's safer to just settle for the Gumbo at the Market :)

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