Florida's New National Dish: Alligator Balls
By: Chef Cristian Feher
There is nothing more telling of a place and its local culture than the food. Regional foods are the culinary map of the world.
Take sushi; everyone knows that sushi is representative of Japan and its people. Pasta (although a Chinese invention) puts Italy on the map. OK, maybe that makes it a bad example. Fried chocolate bars are a Scottish regional specialty. If you’ve ever been to Trinidad and Tobago you wouldn’t go home without eating “Roti” in Trinidad, and “Crab and Dumpling” in Tobago. Every Canadian knows where to get some good Poutine (fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy). And if you should find yourself in Holland, how about “a schmoke and a pancake?”
Finally we arrive in America, jet-lagged and hungry. And although we could say that there is nothing more American than apple pie, the truth is that each state and city can seem like its own little country (some can even seem like third world countries, but we won’t go there, Detroit).
Erie, PA is known for their pepperoni balls, New Yorkers are known for their pizza, Memphis has finger-lickin’ BBQ ribs, Californians made the California sushi roll - lame, but popular, and finally we arrive in America’s pe...- third leg - Florida. And what do we have to show? The grouper sandwich? Which is fed to tourists and can occasionally contain actual grouper. Give me a break! That’s more lame than the California roll.
Due to the current scene, I’ve elected myself to be Florida’s new unofficial PR chef. We need to add some culinary razzle and dazzle to this place, and come up with a regional food we can be proudly known by. So after much deliberation I’ve come up with “Gator Balls”. It’s edgy, it’s fun, and they taste pretty good too!
If you live in Florida it’s easy to get good quality, fresh alligator meat. And if you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a treat. I like to put mine through a meat grinder for this recipe, but chopping it up into small pieces with a knife works just fine. Recipe below.
Gator Balls Recipe:
- 1 quart peanut oil for frying
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup corn meal
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup chopped or ground raw alligator meat
- 1/2 onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic finely diced
- 1 stalk of celery finely diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch of yellow curry powder to taste
- pinch of cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 to 2 tbsp of Tiger Sauce (tamarind sauce)
- 2 tbsp of Tequila (optional)
1. Heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot. It’s much easier with a deep fryer. Make sure it’s at least 365 degrees so that the gator balls don’t soak up too much oil while cooking.
2. In a bowl, mix the flour, egg and milk. Season with salt, pepper, curry and cayenne. Mix in the alligator meat, onion, garlic and celery.
3. Drop small lumps of batter using a spoon into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
4. In another bowl you will mix the dipping sauce by combining the mayo, ketchup, tiger sauce and tequila. Serve dipping sauce on the side of the gator balls. Enjoy!