[American Alligator Alligator mississippiensis | Chinese Alligator Alligator sinensis]
Alligators are now known not to be reptiles but related to birds through a common dinosaur ancestor. Nonetheless, we're listing them here under "reptiles" rather than under "birds", because this is where most people would expect to find them.
American alligators are found in the southeast of the U.S. from North Carolina down and around Florida to the coastal areas of Texas, but most live in Florida and Louisiana. The largest alligator on record was over 19 feet but they are commonly around 8 feet.
While the American Alligator is doing well and is also extensively farmed,
the Chinese alligator lives only along the Yangtze River and is endangered.
In the U.S. alligator has been harvested primarily for hides but the meat is
becoming increasingly popular.
Photo © i0102
Alligator meat is not yet common in much of the U.S., but in Los Angeles I've found it in a large Asian market serving a mixed Chinese and Vietnamese community (168 Market on Valley Blvd. in Alhambra).
No, Alligator doesn't taste "just like chicken", but close enough to chicken thighs that recipes calling for them should work fine. Young alligator (the only kind available around here) leg meat is a little milder than chicken thighs but has more flavor than breast, and it's less tough and stringy than chicken.
I've found that frozen alligator meat (again, the only kind available around here) exudes a lot of juices when fried. The juices coagulate on the pan and form a thick brown coating which would burn before the pieces of meat were browned. You could probably brown alligator by par boiling it for a couple of minutes, cooling, drying and then frying, but browning isn't necessary for many recipes.