My dearest friend in the world has deep roots in Louisiana — the parish prodigal daughter, if you will. Growing up down the road from each other in Virginia, we’d attend a family and friend pig picking and crawfish boil every spring, with the mud bugs flown in from the bayou.
Last Thursday at Wine + Food’s A Shore Thing event in Mt. Pleasant, worlds collided for me as I approached Cru Catering’s table. No pig, no crawfish, but there were two Louisiana gators, ready for pickin’.
Cru Catering executive chef Steve Boyer says that, since we see alligators all over the Lowcountry, for the waterfront event, “it seemed a perfect fit to serve gator.”
“This was a ‘roll up your sleeves and wear a bib’ event so we landed on a Low Country style Gator Pickin,'” says Boyer. “As always, we wanted to go a little overboard with our presentation. The shock and excitement on guests’ faces when they walked up on two whole gators was exactly what we were going for.” (At last year’s finale, Cru served up an ambitious take on pigs in a blanket.)
According to chef, the gators (we didn’t catch their names) were sourced from a small family farm in Louisiana. “As much as we would love to source them locally, gator farming hasn’t taken off in South Carolina, and regulations and permits for wild alligators are pretty tight.” The meat tasted a lot like fall-off-the bone, slow-roasted pork. Boyer says gator meat is naturally “very tough.” To achieve that tender, shredded bite, the gators were brined in buttermilk and blackening spices for four days. That long marination process also “helped pull out any ‘swampy’ flavors the meat may have picked up.”
Boyer finished the gators off by smoking them “slow and low” for six plus hours with S.C. pecan wood, basting them in brown butter. Later, gator.