February 17, 2013

Alligator, Chicken Stock, and Bacon Grease. Oh My!

Alligator, Chicken Stock, and Bacon Grease. Oh My!

Alligator is OK on Fridays in Lent, Says Archbishop of New Orleans

The last few days the Louisiana alligator has been in the media spotlight. Again. But this time it’s not because someone is screaming, “Choot ’em! Choot ’em!” Instead folks are screaming, “Cook ’em! Cook ’em!”

On Fridays in Lent, that is. 😉

And what is the cause of all of this media fanfare?

A letter, pictured below, written almost three years ago by Most Reverend Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans.

Archbishop Aymond Letter on Alligator in Lent

The Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery is just outside of Covington, LA. I’ve been there several times with my wife and kids.

Three years ago, Mr. Jim Piculas of the Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery wrote to Archbishop Aymond to inquire as to whether or not it was permissible to eat alligator on Fridays in Lent.

In his response, Archbishop Aymond clarified the “status” of the alligator, at least as it pertains to Lent. “…[T]he alligator is considered in the fish family… and it is considered seafood.”

But why all this alligator attention now if that letter was written 3 years ago?

On February 13 the Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery posted a picture of this letter on their Facebook Page. And, well, you know what happens when you post something on Facebook… Just about anybody can see it.

Here’s just a short list of the stories I found over the last couple of days:

It’s Nothing New, Really

Alligators are not meat in the same way as cows and chickens are. Alligators are reptiles.

Archbishop Aymond is not making anything up here. As a matter of fact, you can find out exactly what we are called to abstain from on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website:

“Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat…”

But Since We Are on The Subject… What is permissible on Fridays in Lent?

While reading up on the topic of alligator being OK on Fridays in Lent, I made a few other discoveries too. I confess that these are things I just never really thought about.

Did you know that you can technically use stocks and consommés made from meat on days of abstinence in Lent?

I came across an article that stated that even the use of bacon grease is permitted.

Again, here’s what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had to say about this:

“Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat.  Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden.  However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste).  Fish are a different category of animal.  Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.”

Fasting and Abstinence… Spirit and Law

In reading comments around the internet on this subject, I have come across many people who are “shocked” by what they see is a disregard for penance and sacrifice during Lent. In some ways, I share in that shock. But what I have seen, time and again, is that the Church is calling us to the essence, to the heart, of penance and sacrifice. The externals can change, and they do in fact differ from culture to culture. Historically, the Church leaves judgment as much as possible to the individual conscience before God. I’m talking more than food here. The Church takes this stance on many moral issues, all the while encouraging us to convert from the heart and to embrace wholeheartedly the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

On the question of chicken stock and bacon grease, my conscience dictates that I abstain on Fridays in Lent. For me and my family, abstaining would be closer to the true spirit of penance. But when it comes to alligator… Hmmmm… If it wasn’t so expensive, we would probably partake. However, gator ain’t cheap. So me and my family will probably opt for the Burkina Faso Bean Cakes I wrote about the other day. We’ll take the money we save on the gator and put it in our CRS Rice Bowl.

Chef John Folse’s Alligator Sauce Piquante

I have made many a Chicken Sauce Piquante in my day. But I have never cooked alligator. However, Chef John Folse has. Lots.

I wanted to include a recipe for you, just in case you come across some alligator this Lent. 😉

I love sauce piquante. “Piquante” is pronounced “pee-kont.” Piquante means “to prick,” and that’s what the peppers in this dish do to your tongue. A sauce piquante of any variety yields a very peppery stew. So if you come across some gator this Lent, be sure to try this recipe out. And don’t forget to let me know how it is!


  • 3 pounds alligator, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1 cup diced bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 2 (10-ounce) cans ROTEL tomatoes
  • 3 quarts water or beef stock (see recipe)
  • salt and cracked black pepper to taste
  • granulated garlic to taste
  • Louisiana hot sauce to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions


  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour, stirring constantly until a dark brown roux is achieved (see roux recipes).
  2. Add alligator and saute 10 minutes or until well browned.
  3. Stir in onions, celery, bell peppers and minced garlic and saute 3-5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted.
  4. Stir in tomatoes and water or stock. Blend well then season to taste with salt, pepper, granulated garlic and hot sauce.
  5. Bring mixture to a rolling boil then reduce heat to medium. Simmer 2 hours or until meat is tender, adding water to retain volume if necessary.
  6. Add parsley and green onions and adjust seasonings to taste using salt, pepper and granulated garlic.
  7. Serve hot over steamed white rice.


Alligator photo is used courtesy of wwarby on Flickr.com.Chef John Folse’s Alligator Sauce Piquante recipe was found on WAFB’s website .

Ever Had Alligator?

I’d love to hear your story! Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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