Chef Tom’s Food and Cooking Column appears on page 13 of the Ace print edition. Text and Photos by Chef Tom.
As kids, my brother and I spent many sultry summer nights frog gigging on the muddy banks of Difficult Creek in rural Western Kentucky. Armed with a flash light and a Red Ryder BB gun ( our version of gigging), we’d slop through the murky waters of the creek searching for our prey. Fearless hunters. I was in charge of the flashlight. It was my job to blind them with the light and stun them long enough for my brother to do the dirty deed.
Although we always happily hauled our creeky catches back to the house, they mysteriously never appeared on our supper table. My grandmother spent a lifetime slaughtering farm animals, but I suspect that frogs were simply too ridiculous for her to fool with.
Fact. Cleaned frog legs are ridiculous looking, creepy, and a bit off-putting. Like dead GI Joe Dolls stripped of their skins. Weird. All legs. Cooked frog legs are tasty. Leggy, but delicious.
While I’ve prepared them a few times at work to accompany wine tastings, I haven’t fooled with frog legs at home because of the funk factor. Recently, I reluctantly snagged two pounds of frog legs. I intended to marinate them in buttermilk, double dredge them in seasoned flour, and deep fry them like chicken. Heavily battered and deeply disguised.
That was the plan…until I stumbled across a method that let me dance around the leggy issues. Frenching.
I started with four frog leg saddles. Using sharp kitchen shears, I cut the calves from the thighs and sliced the thighs in half before snipping the hip flexors from the tops of the thighs. After cutting away a small portion of the top thigh bone tips, I was able to pull the flesh down, expose the bone, and create fleshy frog pockets to stuff.
I stuffed the dismantled frog pockets with leftover cold goat cheese risotto, dredged them in flour, dipped them in egg wash, rolled them through herb-flecked bread crumbs, and slid them into the refrigerator.
After husking three ears of gorgeous Madison County Corn, I simmered the cobs in buttered water for 5 minutes, pulled them from the heat to cool, and sliced the kernels from the cobs before scraping out the spattering cob milk with the back of my knife.
I tossed the corn into a blender with salt, pepper, onion powder, and a cup of half and half. After blending the corn into a smooth puree, I strained it through a fine sieve, smashed the corn juice through the sieve, discarded the solids, and poured the creamed corn essence into a mixing bowl. I whisked the corn cream with two beaten eggs, filled four 4-ounce ramekins with the mix, and baked them in a steaming water bath for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. When the flans were set, I pulled them from the oven, cooled them on a wire rack, and slid them into the refrigerator.
I cranked the deep fryer to 360 degrees and fried the frog pops until they were golden brown. After draining them on paper towels, I nestled them onto pools of pureed roasted red bell peppers, garnished with slender bud-topped chives. I inverted the jiggly chilled corn flans next to the frog pops, topping them with simple mache salads tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette.
The frog pops were approachable and accessible — interesting, and easy to eat. One bite wonders. With slight hints of juicy meat, they tasted like gussied up cheese-filled fried risotto balls. Arancini with attitude. Crunchy. Creamy. Cool. The smoky sweet earthiness of the soft pepper puree balanced the tangy crunch of the goat cheese risotto.
While the frog pops were fantastic, the fresh corn flans were killer. Tempered by the slight acidity of the mache salads, the flans exuded the pure essence of summer corn. Silky. Light.
Kiss the frog and marry a prince.
Or eat him.