Good Recipes for Reptiles: Alligator, Rattlesnake, and Dinosaur
Anthony Bourdain has hosted a series of gourmet travel shows on a variety of cable networks. He has eaten unusual foods around the world and with more style than some host that just eat gross things with a smug expression on their faces.
Chef Bourdain appreciates different cultures and their customs, no matter what they entail or leave out compared to other peoples and ethnic origins. One thing I have noticed, is that he does not prefer to butcher an animal that he has seen living. In one fascinating and entertaining show, Chef Bourdain was hosted through many regional foods that he had not previously eaten.
A camel was to be prepared for him to enjoy with the extended family of his host. She took him to a camel bazaar where they were to choose a young camel calf. He requested a "stunt camel" from the market, already butchered for cooking. And so it was.
I would also not eat a camel I had seen alive. Both rattlesnake and alligator are good tasting, but I prefer the lighter flavor of alligator. It is distinctive, but is reminiscent of a light pork sausage.
Snake Chili: Snake and Beans
Kids love hot dogs and beans, so why not snake and beans?
In my youth, the S.S. Kresge variety store maintained a small International Food section that included canned meats.
The meats included the usual canned hams, corned beef, canned chicken, and tuna, but also canned rattlesnake in a long, oval, 1-inch high can. By the time I considered purchasing a can of it, the retail chain had closed down in our region.
Here's a recipe I could have used:
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- 64 oz can of pork and beans [I like to use dark kidney beans, with the juice]
- 30 - 36 oz can of stewed tomatoes, with onions and /or peppers if you like
- 4 oz can of diced jalapeno peppers or pepper rings.
- 1 large red onion, peeled, trimmed, and cut into quarters
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 pound of ground beef,partially browned and drained
- 1/2 pound of rattlesnake meat (8 oz can or frozen from the market)
- In a large soup pot on the stove top over medium high heat, pour the beans, add the salt, red onion, and garlic. Stir and cook 10 minutes.
- Add all remaining items, reduce heat to simmer and cook another 10 minutes or until rattlesnake meat is done.
- Serve with something cold to drink.
To my taste, snake is a bit gamey in flavor, but can be soaked for an hour in salt water to make it more mild-flavored. It reminds me somewhat of frog legs and somewhat of emu jerky.
You might prefer to keep snakes as far away from yourself as possible, by reading Preventing Snake Infestation and see how you can rid your home and garden of your snakes.
Alligator Meat Balls
Makes enough for 10 - 12 servings.
- 1 pound of alligator meat, minced
- 1 large egg, well beaten
- 1 Tbsp each of finely chopped Spanish onions, celery, parsley, green onions, green peppers
- 2 tsp lemon-pepper mix
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 Cup fine bread crumbs
- 1 Cup vegetable oil for pan frying
- A bowl of all purpose flour for dredging meat
- In a large mixing bowl, place all the of the first list of ingredients and hand mix well.
- Make meat balls of 1-inch diameter on a clean baking sheet and set the set aside to set and meld flavors for 60 minutes.
- Dredge in flour and fry a few at a time until brown.
- 2 pounds of alligator meat, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 3 Cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 Cup milk
- 3 large eggs, well beaten
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp white pepper
- 3 cloves garlic and 6 green onions, chopped fine
- 3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
- Vegetable oil in an amount for deep-frying the fritters
- In a large mixing bowl, place the meat.
- Pour in milk, egg, flour, baking powder, and garlic and mix well by hand.
- Add green onions, salt and pepper, and cilantro and mix. The mixture should be sticky and adhere to each piece of meat as you take it out. If not, added another beaten egg.
- In a fryer or large iron skillet, heat 1.5 to 2 inches of cooking oil to 360 degrees F by thermometer.
- Form fritters with a spoon and drop in batches of a few, with tongs, frying each side about 2 minutes or until golden brown.
- Drain on paper toweling and serve hot with dipping sauces.
How to Cook a Dinosaur
I once received a request for directions for cooking a dinosaur and whether this could be accomplished or not, if America began to clone them. I had cartoon visions of a T-Rex sitting on an iron skillet.
Larger and/or older reptiles may have a more distinctive gamy flavor than smaller or younger reptiles and require the meat to be soaked overnight in a salt water bath after being cut up, in order to remove some of that taste.
Whole lizards are cooked over fire on sticks in some parts of Africa. Insects and grubs are eaten from sticks, often sold in markets and vendor stalls. At the Alice Springs Desert Park in Australia, visitors can see cooks prepare Aboriginal foods (Bush Tucker), including lizards buried in a portion of a fire pit.
Women also create simple breads from various available seeds and grubs for nutrition. Particular areas of an open campfire are used differently: outer edges contain hot soil and ash, while in the middle the fire contains hot coals.
Some chili cook offs in the US are performed cowboy-style, using hot coals and heavy iron kettles, so we can probably cook about anything in the outback fire pit.
Some reptiles reportedly cooked in Australia include the Rock Python, Carpet Snake, a large Goanna type, and some from a group called "dragons" (family Amagidae). .
Not For The Faint - Hearted
Certain Asian specialty dishes require the reptile or fish portions to be fresh and still moving. The dish in the video below was the object of a Speed Cooking Contest in China.
Snake portions and fish portions are indeed still slightly moving as the dish sits immediately after assembly.
Speed Cooking Contest: Snake and Fish
© 2009 Patty Inglish MS