Alligator Riggies! I Made Utica’s Famous Riggies with Alligator Meat
Boredom? Curiosity? Madness? Don't ask me why, but I recently decided to make Utica Riggies with some good old-fashioned alligator meat.
In truth, I was inspired by Bella Regina, one of the best places in town to order riggies. They have an incredible number of ways to prepare them. Their menu had over 10 varieties the last I checked. The traditional chicken, steak, shrimp, meatballs, eggplant, etc.
So I thought... how can I take this up a notch, and prepare riggies in a way that (probably) has never been done? Alligator, baby! They eat it all the time in Louisiana, how bad could it possibly be?
WHERE DO YOU GET ALLIGATOR MEAT AROUND HERE?
The closest confirmed place I could find that sells alligator meat was Cortland Sea Foods in Cortland, New York. This means I drove 3 hours round trip to go get this stuff. It's sort of weird to think of alligator meat as "seafood," but I guess it is. Alligators spend most of their lives chilling in the water. It's just weird to think of that in the same terms as salmon and haddock.
It comes in 1lb frozen packs, and it's not cheap. I bought two packs (saving one for... something) and it came to $37.
After letting the pack de-thaw, I removed the meat to see what I was dealing with.
"It tastes like chicken" is sort of cliché, but that's what I understood alligator to taste like. It definitely has the appearance of it. Absolutely zero smell. Was kind of shocked by that.
Beyond that, I used the Joe Morelle recipe and tried to follow it the best I could.
I cut up the gator into smaller pieces, seasoned with salt & pepper. Prepped my onion, sweet peppers, and cherry peppers. No mushrooms here.
Cooked the gator in a cast iron skillet with (a little too much) olive oil, and some garlic. This is where I started to notice that the consistency was not quite like chicken. The pieces start to kind of curl and they looked rubbery. I was concerned.
When the gator was mostly cooked, I transferred it to a pot and threw in the sweet peppers and some wine.
Added the onion, cherry peppers & marinara. Cooked that down before adding butter & parmesan. Tossed in the cooked rigatoni in the end.
My sauce was a little thin. This would not pass in most Utica restaurants. But I was getting impatient, so I said f**k it.
HOW DID IT TASTE?
I'll say that there's nothing objectively horrifying about the taste. I was actually a little shocked at how it didn't really taste like anything.
I will say that there was a mental hurdle here that I had a hard time getting past. I had no real interest in "digging in." The cooked gator was similar in taste and consistency to chicken, but just knowing that it wasn't... well, I just had a hard time with that.
I had a few bites, and I was all set. Again, it wasn't offensive. It was perfectly edible. Possibly even tasty. But the unfamiliarity of it was too much.
So I guess I don't like alligators. Something I have in common with Captain Hook.
2 stars out of 5. Would not recommend it.
Seeya later alligator.