Friday, November 21, 2014

Cuisses de Grenouilles. Frogs' Legs in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu.
Bryan Newman
Updated March 2018

Deep Fried Frogs' Legs
Cuisses de Grenouilles – Frogs’ legs.

Until thirty or so years ago, Italian deep-fried calamari, deep-fried squid, was a strange dish; then about twenty-five years ago along came Japanese sushi and sashimi.  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 different meats, disparate fish, diverse cheeses, offbeat fruits and contrasting wines has, by now, prepared us to enjoy frog's legs.

Stir-fried frog’s legs.,

Now, when you see Frog’s legs on the menus in France, do not pass them by.
The taste of frog’s legs?

Frog’s legs have their own mild taste. The nearest taste comparison, not the texture, I would give to the tails of freshwater crayfish. 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.  While enjoying your frog’s legs remember they are also good for you as they have plenty of Omega 3.

What about the texture of frog's legs?
Frog’s legs have a texture somewhat similar to the meat on chicken wings; however, that is the texture, not the taste, 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 the fault of the chef cooking them in too much oil or butter so send them back.

Frog Legs with capers in tomato sauce
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 appearances count, you will have to use a knife and fork.
Frog's legs on French menus:

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.

Frog legs, salsa negra, scallion, lime.
Cuisses de Grenouille Sautées aux Ananas – Frog’s legs lightly fried with pineapple.

Ravioles de Grenouilles aux Morilles et Vin Jaune – Raviolis stuffed with frog’s leg meat and morel mushrooms and served in a yellow Jura wine sauce. The wine used with this dish is the Vin Jaune, the yellow wine made famous in the French department of Jura in the region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. This is a very aromatic dessert wine with a taste somewhat like a dry fino sherry.
Quiche aux Épinards et Cuisses de Grenouilles – A spinach and frog’s legs quiche.

Pan seared frog's legs with garlic, parsley, and olive oil.
Frog’s legs used to be on every bistro’s menu, a traditional low-priced dish. Then well-trained French chefs who grew up enjoying frog’s legs at home or in a local bistro began applying their knowledge. They have created recipes that adorn the menus of the most elegant restaurants. Now you will be offered frog’s legs meat served with pasta, frog’s legs meat in pies, frog’s legs with wild mushrooms and excellent wines as well as frog’s legs pizza. 
Nevertheless, 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 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:
(Dutch - kikkerbenen), (German - froschschenkel), (Italian- cosce di rane), (Spanish - muslos de ranas).
Frogs legs and the inventor who changed our lives Luigi Galvani's.
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 tests were not in the kitchen. I have included Galvani in this post as he is an interesting subject for discussion while dining on frog's legs.

Statue of Luigi Galvani (1737 – 1798) in Bologna, Italy.

Alessandro 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

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