When I was in the South Carolina Low Country last week I managed to get my hands on some absolutely fresh and delicious frog legs. Most commercial frog legs (at least the ones I’ve managed to get) are sold frozen and are usually imported from China. Once frozen the tasty little legs lose much of the sweet tenderness that makes them such a fine treat; the flesh gets a little rubbery and loses flavor. Now, about that flavor — everyone says they taste like chicken, but I don’t really buy into that description. That’s only an excuse to get the slightly squeamish to try something that superficially seems a bit weird — I mean, you’re eating a slimy, mud-dwelling amphibian, right? To me, frog legs taste like, well, frog. The meat is tender, almost gentle in its yielding texture, and a bit sweet with a faint butteriness that’s reminiscent of fresh scallops or mild fish like dover sole. The meat is nearly white, and the legs do bear a superficial resemblance to a chicken drumstick. If you fry them “chicken-style” like I did you could certainly make a case that they “taste like chicken”.
My friend Martin took half the batch and sautéed them French-style (you’ve heard the French being referred to as Frogs, haven’t you?), which means in a hot pan with garlic and herbs and a splash of white wine. They were incredibly delicious, but I prefer frying them because I find that a crisp breading plays wonderfully against the tender meat inside, making for a fantastic textural contrast. Crispy critters are yummy!
Now, I’m not sure exactly where these froggies were “gigged” although the marshy Low Country could certainly produce a bumper crop of our amphibious friends. I’m pretty sure they were local, although the seafood purveyor was a bit cagey about the actual source. Maybe something not entirely above-board in the supply chain? I don’t know, I don’t care, the frogs were exceptionally good. Heck, it’s not like I was buying whale meat.
I got the legs and separated them from the lower half of the frog torsos with a couple of sharp whacks with my knife. I’d never seen them still attached to the body, and the tiny exposed vertebrae and frog ribs had a Sam Raimi-George Romero-David Cronenberg kind of grotesquerie that gave me a brief pause. But I continued and with the same blade hacked off the feet (flippers?). The resulting “drumsticks” I soaked in whole milk for three hours in the refrigerator.
I whisked together a simple breader from one cup all-purpose flour, one and a half cups yellow corn flour (not to be confused with corn starch or corn meal), a quarter-cup of semolina flour, a generous tablespoon of kosher salt, a teaspoon of celery salt, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon of ground white pepper, a teaspoon of onion powder, a half-teaspoon of finely ground black pepper, a half-teaspoon of Old Bay Spice, a half-teaspoon of granulated sugar, and a half-teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder.
I set up a fryer for 375ºF and breaded the frog legs by gently shaking off any excess milk and dredging the legs in the seasoned flours. I placed the legs on a rack over a sheet pan and let them sit for about five minutes. I fried the legs five or six at a time until golden brown, about three minutes per batch. I served them simply with lemon slices although a simple tartar sauce or remoulade wouldn’t have been out of place.
They were spectacular — hot and crisp and juicy and tender. Utterly delicious.
They don’t really look like chicken, do they?