Monday, April 21, 2008

On Today's Menu: Sauteed Frog Legs

If the home chef is feeling adventurous, Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook is able to take one on an unforgettable culinary cruise. Sauteed frog legs with wilted baby spinach and creamer potatoes, on page 263, is one of the more unique recipes in the cookbook. In the notes, it's suggested that the best quality legs are domestic frogs, most of which are from Florida. If using frozen legs, it's best that the meat is used as soon as it is thawed as this meat has a short shelf-life of a day or two.

The modern history of this dish begins in the 1880s. At, a short history of Rayne, LA, is presented by Amy Snyder about the city known as the "Frog Capitol of the World." A gourmet chef called Donat Pucheu began to ship bullfrogs to restaurants in New Orleans. As time went on French businessmen, the Brothers Weill, arranged to export the delicacy to restaurants around the world including Sardi's in New York City.

In the cookbook, it's stated that Chef Georges-Auguste Escoffier (The Chef of Kings and the King of Chefs) introduced the dish to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales in the early 1900s while running the Carlton Hotel's kitchens. In order to slip the dish onto the menu, Escoffier renamed it as the more appealing "cuisses de nymphes aurore" or "thighs of the dawn nymphs," rather than frog thighs.

By the mid 1900s, Rayne has stopped the exportation of bullfrogs. According to, Bangladesh became a major exporter of frogs for a time but later banned exporting frogs because the heavy cultivation of frogs led to an increase of the fly population. Insecticides proved to be too costly to be practical so the frog population was kept at home, catching flies.

While the modern diner views frog legs as a delicacy, an archaeological dig in the Czech Republic revealed the remains of 893 frog bones, most of them the bones of thighs, the meatiest part of the frog. Salvador Bailon, a leading expert of frogs in history, revealed in an article by Rossella Lorenzi that, "Everything seems to confirm that frog consumption was merely an opportunistic choice at that time." Neolithic Czechs tended to hunt frogs in the months of March or April:
Those months see the height of mating activity, when frogs tend to gather in great numbers and can be easily captured. "The frogs could have been simply gathered directly from the pond, or ... other more specialised methods could have been used, such as ground traps during their migration or by fishing on a line and hook," writes Rene Kysely, an archaeologist of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The mild and pleasant flavor of the frog, comparable to other white meats, makes this unconventional dish an elegant surprise. Ralph Brennan's New Orleans Seafood Cookbook suggests serving this with a soup or salad to make a complete meal.

Exploratorium: "Frog City: Rayne, LA"
Food Reference Website: "Frogs & Frog Legs"
ABC: "Stone Age Europeans Ate Frogs' Legs" 06/27/07
photo courtesy of mbloore, used under this Creative Commons license

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