We purchased a 37 pound whole, skinned alligator, smoked him for 17 hours over a maple wood fire, and ate him up! It was a great experience, and the Louisiana Crawfish Company did us right on all counts! I have an annual tradition of throwing a party for the people I work with and my friends at J&J Barbeque Experience here in Rochester, MN smoke a whole beast - almost always a mammal (pig, boar, lamb, goat). But this year we decided to step out of our comfort zone and try a gator. I called about 2 months ahead of the time and told them what size a gator I was interested in. I received a call back within a couple of days that one had come in and they said they would hold it frozen for me if I wanted. Talk about excellent customer service! We talked about when I wanted it delivered - and 2 months later, right on cue, there was big Styrofoam cooler waiting for me on my front porch when I came home! The gator was still frozen solid - so there were no concerns about any spoilage. We brined/thawed him for about 30 hours in salt, sugar, Zatarain's crab boil, and plenty of ice. We stuffed him with about 10 cups of Andouille stuffing (from Paul Prudhomme's turducken recipe on his website) and 2 deboned ducks - each stuffed with about a cup of the stuffing. After we tied him up with butcher's string and put him on his back in the smoker, we draped him with 5 pounds of good apple wood smoked bacon to make sure he didn't dry out. We held his jaw open with a block of wood, and wrapped the head and paws (the parts that still had the hide on them) in aluminum foil to keep the skin from burning. Then it was low and slow - 17 hours at about 230 degrees F with a charcoal and maple wood fire. Just in case some of the party guests were squicked out about eating a reptile - we also put on 2 whole chickens about half way thru the process. That also gave us an opportunity to mimic an Australian photo of a smoked gator, draped in bacon, with a smoked chicken in his mouth (which is why we wanted to cook him with his mouth open). So after 17 hours - we took him out to rest. The original plan was to turn him over so we could pose the gator with the chicken in his mouth - but it turned out that it was so tender that the head just slide off, and we could just turn the head over to pose the jaws and chicken, With the crispy bacon on his underside and the head turned around - you'd need to be an expert in alligator anatomy to realize that the pose was not possible in real life! Needless to say, an alligator barbeque is not an everyday occurrence in Minnesota - so there was lot of Oh's and Ah's when people saw him! But after we finished admiring the artistic pose - we pulled him apart and started eating! I have had fried gator when I lived in New Orleans, but I wasn't quite sure what to expect - but it was delicious! Gator is a fairly light white meat that takes the smoke well and tastes more similar to turkey than anything else (IMHO!). Between the long, slow cooking, the bacon, and the stuffing, the meat was tender and moist. Rave reviews from a bunch of Minnesotans! So a big thanks to the Louisiana Crawfish Company! The service was great and the gator was perfect. I'm already thinking about the party next year. Hmmm. Maybe a crawfish boil………E. Highsmith
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