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Friday, November 21, 2014

Cuisses de Grenouilles. Frogs' Legs on the French Menu.

Behind the French Menu.
Bryan Newman

Deep Fried Frogs' Legs
Photograph by AndreySt/
Cuisses de Grenouilles – Frogs’ legs.
Until thirty or so years ago, the Italian deep-fried calamari, squid, was a strange dish; then about twenty-five years ago along came sushi and sashimi.  Together they made different fish and seafood widely available on our menus. Around the same time, travelers brought back a taste for conches and goat they had discovered in the Caribbean while others told us about the reindeer steaks they enjoyed in Scandinavia. Our exposure to the availability of  different meats, different fish,  different cheeses, different fruits and different wines has, by now, prepared us to enjoy frog's legs.
Now for frog’s legs
It is  time to include frog’s legs in the list of foods that we have tasted and most of us have enjoyed. Frog’s legs will be on the menus in France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Vietnam and Southern China and their restaurant's in our countries.

The texture of frog's legs?

Frog’s legs have a texture similar to chicken wings; however, that is the texture, not the taste. Like chicken wings, they have thin bones and the meat may be served on or off the bone. NB: Frog’s legs and their meat are not at all greasy; if you are served greasy frog’s leg that is fault of the chef cooking them in too much oil or butter so send them back.
Ravioli stuffed with meat from frog's legs served in a cream sauce.
Photograph courtesy of 10Rosso

The taste of frog’s legs?
Frog’s legs have their own mild taste. The nearest taste comparison, not texture, I would give to the tails of freshwater crayfish also called crawdads. Crayfish are no more visually attractive than frogs but their tails are as equally tasty as frog’s legs.  However, like many other foods, including fish, beef, chicken and crayfish the final taste is directly related to the manner of cooking and the sauces used,  Even the wine that accompanies them makes up the final taste of frog’s legs.   While enjoying your frog’s legs remember they are also good for you as they have plenty of Omega 3.
Trying frog’s legs.
The best dish for that first-time encounter with frog’s legs would be “cuisses de grenouilles frites,” deep-fried frog’s legs; this is France’s most popular frog’s legs recipe. Deep-fried frog’s legs are served on the bone and if you have been provided with a finger bowl, or possibly a plate of those nasty wipes, you may use your hands.  However, in restaurants where appearance counts you will have to use a knife and fork.
Cuisses de Grenouilles Dorées au Sautoir.
Frog’s legs, fried to a golden color in a high-sided frying pan, a sautoir.
It may seem odd for a frying pan to be mentioned in a menu listing; however, informing France’s knowledgeable dining public about how a dish is made and the equipment used is part of  French restaurant tradition.
Photograph courtesy of Inspirational Food
Your menu may offer:

Cuisses de Grenouilles Frites au Citron et à l'Ail – Deep-fried frog’s legs flavored with lemon and garlic.

Cuisses de Grenouilles à la Provençale - Frog’s legs cooked in tomatoes, white wine, shallots and flavored with garlic and parsley.

Cuisses de Grenouilles Panes - Frog’s legs, deep- fried in breadcrumbs.

Fricassée de Cuisses de Grenouilles à l'Ail des Ours .
Frog’s legs stewed and flavored with wild garlic.
Photograph courtesy of ExactLeo.
Cuisses de Grenouille Sautées aux Ananas – Frog’s legs lightly fried with pineapple.
Ravioles de Grenouilles aux Morilles et Vin Jaune – Raviolis stuffed with the meat from frog’s legs and morel mushrooms and served in a yellow wine sauce. The wine used with this dish is the Vin Jaune, the yellow wine made famous by the Vin de Château-Chalon AOC/AOP from the French department of Jura in the region of Franche-Comté. This is a very aromatic dessert wine with a taste somewhat like a dry fino sherry; however, in the kitchen the yellow wine used will likely be one of the Château-Chalon’s less-expensive imitators.
Quiche aux Épinards et Cuisses de Grenouilles – A spinach and frog’s leg quiche.
Deep-Fried frog's legs.
Photograph courtesy of HC Seidelin.
Frog’s legs used to be on every bistro’s menu, eventually rising prices pushed this traditional low-priced dish into higher priced restaurants. Then well-trained French chefs had the chance to apply their knowledge. They created recipes that include the deboned meat from frog’s legs. You will be offered frog’s legs meat served with pasta, frog’s legs meat in pies, and, on the downside, in fast food restaurants frog’s legs pizza.  
Like many other food products, the rise in the standard of living, along with the popularity of frogs’ legs, has created a shortage of domestic frogs raised in French frog farms.  Today, over half of France’s requirements are imported from the Far-East.  Domestic French frog farming is trying to catch up, but it has a long way to go before it can meet the local demand.
Frog’s legs popularity is not unique to France. Frog's legs will be on the menus in Spain, Germany, Italy and other Western Europe countries. The USA, Canada, and the UK  all have their own frog farms to supply part of their domestic demand.

The Froggies.

Tasty frog's legs shocked British soldiers in WWI when they found out that the French ate them!  Eating frogs’ legs earned the French soldiers the British nickname  “ Froggies!” 
Frog’s legs in the languages of France’s neighbors: 
(German - froschschenkel), (Italian- cosce di rane), (Spanish - muslos de ranas).

Statue of Luigi Galvani (1737 – 1798) in Bologna, Italy.
Photograph courtesy of dalbera.
Luigi Galvani's work with frog’s legs made him famous. Galvani’s name is associated with the Galvanic cell, the Galvanometer and Galvanization. That fame began with this medical doctor’s early experiments using frog’s legs to show the effects of electricity on nerves. Galvani's probably enjoyed eating frog's legs but his scientific experiments were not in the kitchen. I have included Galvani in this post as he is interesting subject for discussion while dining on frog's legs.

Alessandr Volta (1745 – 1827) who gave his name to the volt and invented the first battery  did not agree with Galvani.  However, each in his own area of discovery did much to make our world an easier place to live in. In the meantime enjoy your lunch or dinner.
Bon Appetit.

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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu.
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For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman