By Alyssa Glawe
As my taste for travel and adventure has grown every year since I was a child, so has my courage for new culinary flavors. During my first extended stay in France, I swallowed my fears and tasted escargot (snails) for the first time and was pleasantly surprised. However, I didn’t muster enough courage to try des cuisses de grenouille, or frogs’ legs. This past year, that all changed when I realized, (for the second time), that the French should be recognized for their ability to create dishes out of unappetizing sources.
The French did not always eat frogs’ legs, and as history shows, the Chinese were some of the first people to eat frogs. Some sources say that the French started eating frogs back in the 12th century. According to many stories, French monks started eating frogs because they could be classified as fish and therefore eaten on certain days of the year when other meats were to be avoided. Following their religious leaders’ example, the French people introduced the frog into their culinary diets too.
As many people know, the French can also be referred to as “Frogs.” How did the French earn such a nickname? One can assume this nickname was given to the French because of the well-known fact of their appetite for frogs’ legs. One thing you may not know, however, is that the French can thank the British for this moniker. The British have been calling the French “Frogs,” well before America was even colonized.
The first time I tasted frogs’ legs, a friend of mine from Grenoble and I decided to take a vacation to Paris. I had always wanted to see Paris in the autumn, as I studied there during a winter/spring semester of university. We ate regularly in the Latin Quarter, located in the 5th and 6th arrondissements along the Seine River, because this area of Paris houses many restaurants with menus fit for an assistant English teacher’s wallet.
Gazing over the menu, my eyes quickly noticed the final hors d’œuvre listed, des cuisses de grenouille. Luckily my friend was up for the challenge of trying something new, so we split the dish between us. Minutes later, a warm platter of frogs’ legs covered in a tomato sauce was placed in front of us. At first glance we couldn’t help but notice that the legs were intact and connected — no need to mask what you’re eating. I picked up my frog and slowly pulled off a piece of thigh meat from the legs. After a second, I realized my taste buds had experienced this texture and flavor before. Colloquially speaking, frogs’ legs taste similarly to chicken with a little hint of fishiness.
There’s no need to fret, no need to be a coward; frogs’ legs should not be seen as a bizarre food creation. It should be recognized as a culinary achievement, acknowledging the French (again) for their ability to create dishes from almost anything at their fingertips. Do yourself a favor and go out on a limb, take the jump, and hop right into your closest French restaurant and try frogs’ legs!
Sautéed Frogs’ Legs: Cuisses de Grenouille à la Provençale
Courtesy of saveur.com
– 12 pairs of frogs’ legs (about 12 oz.), fresh or frozen and thawed
– 1 ½ cups milk
– Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
– 1 cup flour
– 16 tbsp. clarified butter
– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
– 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1. Snip apart each pair of frogs’ legs. Combine frogs’ legs and milk in a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Transfer legs to paper towels, pat dry, and season generously with salt and pepper. Put flour on a plate and, working in batches, coat legs with flour, shaking off excess, and transfer to another plate.
2. Heat 6 tbsp. butter in a 12″ skillet over high heat until sizzling. Add half of the frogs’ legs and cook, flipping once, until golden brown, 3–4 minutes. Transfer legs to a plate and set aside; wipe out skillet; repeat with 6 more tbsp. butter and remaining legs. Discard butter in skillet; then add remaining butter and the garlic and cook, swirling constantly, until mixture is fragrant and garlic is lightly browned, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat, add lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. To serve, place frogs’ legs in the center of a serving plate, drizzle sauce around edge of plate, and garnish with parsley. Serve with sautéed potatoes and tomatoes, if you like.
Alyssa Glawe is a jeune fille au pair in France and has been an English assistant teacher, working for the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). Her teaching placement was in Grenoble, France where she worked at two primary schools, teaching French children from the ages of 6 to 11. She received her B.A. in Communications/Journalism and French Language, but it was when she interned at the Alliance Française de Minneapolis/St. Paul, where she fell in love with French culture and language.
You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, French Cuisine: Foie Gras, by French writer Laurence Haxaire who writes: even if foie gras is the star of holiday dinners at the end of the year, it is a traditional dish all year long. There are thousands of ways to serve foie gras: as hors d’oeuvre or entrées. Recipe included for La Terrine de Foie Gras aux Pommes d’Elké (Foie Gras with apples), Foie Gras à la Vapeur (Foie Gras marinated in salt, pepper and cognac, and steamed), and Foie Gras Poêllé (Foie Gras sautéed with a bit of sweet white wine).
Escargot. Don’t judge a snail by its shell, by Alyssa Glawe who shares this first time, life-changing culinary experience at Paris’ oldest restaurant, La Petite Chaise, where she was overwhelmed by the taste of butter, garlic, and herbs. Recipe included for Escargot with Garlic Butter, courtesy of LifestyleFood.com.
French White Wines: Sauternes, by Barbara Redmond together with Jo-Ann Ross, French Wine Scholar and Certified Specialist of Wine, who share their conversation about which French white wines to pair with foie gras during lunch at a café outside of Boston. Including Jo-Ann’s French white wine selections for French Sauternes Wines: expensive, less expensive, and something different.
French Onion Soup – a Paris meal to remember, by Michelle Hum who recalls the aroma of sweet caramelized onions, dry wine, and rich broth rising from the steam from her bowl. With the first taste—serendipity. Recipe included for Julia Child’s Soupe à l’oignon (French onion soup) from her cookbook, The Way to Cook.
Text copyright ©2012 Alyssa Glawe. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Michelle Schwartzbauer. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.