When You're Up to Your Ass in Alligators

By Lisa Elbert | Will Blunt

By

Lisa Elbert
Will Blunt
Alligator Wings, Blood Orange Glaze, Carrot-Tomato Salad, Celery, and Whipped Blue Cheese
Alligator Wings, Blood Orange Glaze, Carrot-Tomato Salad, Celery, and Whipped Blue Cheese

Chef Ryan Haigler is not afraid to cross an alligator—or to brine it, deep fry it, glaze it, and jerk it, for that matter. He even goes so far as to serve it—in wing form, blue cheese on the side—at his coastal New Orleans restaurant Grand Isle.

The inspiration behind the wings? To avoid the tourist trap, seafood-centric Nola menu rut. “We have five total items that aren’t seafood,” says Haigler, “so we have to be as creative and playful as possible, without going overboard. We have to be real with it.” Being one of just a few fish-free dishes, the wings are a hot seller. “We can’t keep them. We sell 20 to 25 orders on a busy night,” he says.

The “wings” are cut from the front legs of the alligator, which have a similar musculature to chicken wings (but cost double the price of poultry at $5/pound). Brined for about 48 hours with a habañero wet jerk, Haigler then deep-fries the gator wings for 5 minutes, rests them for another minute, and deep-fries them once more to make them extra crisp. Because the alligator meat behaves like red meat, the “wings” need to be rested for the blood to dissipate away from the bone. Finally, brushed with a blood orange glaze, the wings are salty, spicy, fun, all for $12. Thanks, Haigler, and see you later, alligator.

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