Fried frog legs come in various forms, but I came to them as a child in French restaurants, lightly fried and served with parsley and garlic. So this is a French fried frog legs recipe, not the typical Cajun one you see a lot on the internet.
Fried frog legs said “luxury” to me as a kid because I’d only see them in fancy places — I also got a good snicker when they told me this is why the English call the French “frogs.”
How did I get these frog legs, you ask? I gigged them, in Lake Tahoe. Yep, the frog hunting is awesome up there — and what’s more, by killing them we were doing a good deed for the environment! Makes these fried frog legs taste even better. Of course it could be all that butter…
It all started when our friend Joel let me know there were frogs in them thar hills. Bullfrogs? Yep. Bigguns? Yep. We’re so there. Prepped with a few beers, we headed out for the Secret Spot, which, suffice to say, is somewhere around the lake on the California side between Truckee and South Lake Tahoe. Honestly I am not certain exactly where we were. It was dark, and did I mention I might have had a few beers?
Once you gig your frogs, you put them in a bucket with a lid to clean later. And yeah, you need the lid. Aren’t the frogs dead when you spear them? Um, sorta. Please refer to my post on how to clean a frog for the grisly details on this one.
(Looking for a different frog legs recipe? Try my Chinese stir-fried frog legs.)
Incidentally, if you wondering why there are bullfrogs in California, well, apparently, some chucklehead brought bullfrogs to Contra Costa County, in California’s Bay Area back in 1896. The plan was to ranch them as a sort of amphibious fish farm. Frog legs sold for the equivalent of $7.55 per pound back then, which, oddly, is about the same price you can get them for now.
Speaking of that, if you want to make fried frog legs, most of you will buy them. Asian markets are by far the easiest places to find frog legs, usually in the freezer section. Once in a great while butcher shops or fish markets sell them, but don’t count on it.
This particular frog legs recipe is a classic Provencal dish called cuisses de grenouille à la Provençale, and it is the way I first ate frog legs, back when I was a boy.
I can vividly remember it. Fried frog legs were part of the gourmet buffet at a place in West Orange, New Jersey called The Manor. I also remember that mom used to starve us all before we descended on the buffet like Visigoths. I am pretty sure I ate close to 10 frogs’ worth of legs at one trip to the trough alone.
For the record, fried frog legs really do kinda-sorta taste like chicken. Light, flaky, mild, they are like a combination between chicken breast, shrimp and crab. Damn good. Make more than you think you need because leftover are good cold the next day.
Fried Frog Legs, French Style
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds frog legs
- 1 cup milk (optional)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 cup flour
- 10 tablespoons clarified butter, divided
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
- 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- If you're marinating, soak the frog legs in the milk in the fridge for an hour. You can skip this with store-bought frog legs. Meanwhile, mix the salt, black pepper and flour in a bowl, then chop the garlic and parsley.
- Heat 5 tablespoons of the butter in a frying pan large enough to hold all the frog legs; if you don't have a pan large enough, put a baking sheet in the oven and set a rack inside. Turn the oven to about 180°F. You'll use this to store the finished frog legs while you fry the rest. If you do have a large enough pan, set the baking sheet with the rack set inside next to the stovetop.
- Dredge the frog legs in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Fry in the butter over medium-high heat until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Flip only once if you can help it, as the flour coating is fragile. Set on the rack to drain when the frog legs are done.
- Discard the butter in the pan and wipe it out with a paper towel. Set the pan back on the stove over medium-high heat. When the butter is hot, sauté the garlic until it smells good, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and swirl in the lemon juice. Arrange the frog legs on individual plates, and, right before you serve, mix the parsley into the sauce. Pour it over the frog legs and serve immediately.
Keys to Success
- Have your clarified butter hot! You want to see a wisp of smoke coming from it when you toss in the frog legs. Keep the temperature around 340°F and you will have crisp frog legs.
- Good, fresh ingredients are the key here. Wilty parsley and pre-peeled garlic won't cut it.