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One French word: grenouille, a French recipe: cuisses de grenouille à l’ail et au gingembre


Well we couldn’t miss this word out, could we!

Grenouille, feminine noun (une grenouille, la grenouille, des grenouilles) = frog (pronounced grrr-nou-y)

Une grenouillère is a baby’s sleep pyjama, which fits like the skin of a frog.

Une grenouille de bénitier (literally a church font frog) is said of someone who spends their time in church.

The sound frogs make in French is croasser = to croak.

La Grenouille qui voulait se faire aussi grosse que le boeuf (literally The Frog who wanted to be as big as the steer (cow)) is a famous Fable de la Fontaine, the frog in question, trying to be so much greater than he was meant to be, finished up by bursting…

Un tétard = a tadpole

This is what the French are famous for, isn’t it? Eating frogs. And yet in actual fact a lot of French people have never eaten frogs’ legs, and those that do, don’t do so that often.  They can be found on restaurant menus, fried with garlic and parsley, but less and less it seems to me. It used to be a pastime for those living in the country with a pond, lake or river nearby, to catch frogs to eat. I’m sure some people still do, though they are in fact protected, or the large ones that supply the best legs are. I used to be able to buy skewers of large French frogs legs on the market thirty years ago. No longer. The only ones I can find are frozen farmed ones, quite small, from Thailand or Vietnam. They are still very good and worth doing from time to time. I think these are the ones you are likely to find wherever you live.

So my recipe today is not the usual frogs’ legs with parsley and garlic butter, but cuisses de grenouille à l’ail et au gingembre = frogs’ legs with garlic and ginger. This version gives you crispier and tastier frogs’ legs, and if really you don’t feel like doing the real thing, or can’t find them, strips of chicken fillet (the strip which is on the inside of a chicken breast) would do instead.

Une cuisse, by the way, is not a leg (= une jambe), but a thigh (une cuisse de poulet = a chicken thigh), and gives rise to some interesting expressions:

Le droit de cuissage was the right of a lord to the virginity of a serf or servant before she got married, and un lit trois cuisses is a bed measuring 120cm wide, larger than a single bed (90cm), but not as big as a small double (140cm).

What a lot of culture you are getting for your money today.

A bit blurry as usual

For 4 people you will need:

  • About 40 frogs’ legs, unfrozen and patted dry
  • a three-inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 2tbs oriental sesame oil
  • 1tsp salt
  • 4tbs sesame seeds, toasted or not
  • cornflour to coat
  • corn oil to fry
  • a bunch of fresh coriander leaves
  • rice to accompany

No, don't say eeuw, chicken thighs look just the same...

Preparation:

Marinating

  1. Place the frogs’ legs in a dish and add the sesame oil, garlic, ginger, salt and half the bunch of coriander, chopped. Stir and leave to marinate, turning occasionally, for from 10 minutes, to half a day (in the fridge).
  2. Add the sesame seeds and stir. They should stick to the meat.
  3. Add the cornflour, enough to coat.
  4. Heat the corn oil in a large heavy frying pan, and tip the whole dish of legs into the pan (there should be no liquid left, the sesame seeds and cornflour should have absorbed everything). If you are cooking for more than two people, you will need two large pans.
  5. With tongs, separate the legs so that a maximum of their surface area is in contact with the pan. This is important is you want them crispy. Fry on fairly high heat for about 4 minutes, checking to see they are not burning.
  6. Turn each pair of legs and fry for 2 or 3 more minutes. They should be very brown and crisp.
  7. Serve with plain rice and a green salad with the remaining coriander chopped and sprinkled over them.

This is a very delicate and tasty dish, so do get rid of any prejudices you might have and try it.

To be eaten with the fingers, of course. Bon appétit!

About OneFrenchWord

I was a professional linguist and have been a life-long foodie. I am now lucky enough to be retired and free to roam the beaches around my home at the tip of the Finistère (Brittany, France). Writing is occupying a larger place in my life, with this blog and a children's book in preparation. I shall feel much happier calling myself a writer when I have published a book. And so posts on OneFrenchWord will be published first as an e-book, my ambition being to see a glossy volume on French language and cuisine in print some day. So keep reading, and snap up the book when it appears!

11 responses »

  1. marshmallowfluffxo

    I wonder where one would get frog legs where I live. I’ve never seen them in stores I go to.

    Reply
  2. Frog legs might be an interesting thing to try!!! Don’t think we can get them here.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for the cultural references. I didn’t know that ‘droit de cuissage’ was the same as ‘droit de seigneur’. I have eaten frogs’ legs only once – they don’t appear much on menus any more, as you say – and enjoyed them. I am also rather partial to snails. I do wonder what happens to the rest of the frog, though.

    Reply
  4. Pieter J. Bogaers

    As a culinary journalist I say: people really should stop eating frogs legs. The way these animals are killed is gruesome (just cut in two being alive). And the taste and texture is comparable with chicken. So buy that farmhouse chicken, prepare it the way described above and leave ’em frogs alone.

    Reply
    • Yes, Pieter, you may have a point, but do you think we treat chickens any better when it comes to the slaughter? Are we not, as a race, treating our raw animal ingredients rather poorly before making them into delicious dishes?

      Reply
      • Pieter J. Bogaers

        That’s why I used the word farmhouse chickens, they had a good life and death always is the least attractive part of the story. I’m on the track of: if you eat meat (and man I do like it!), be sure to go to a butcher who knows where his animals are from et cetera (smaal scale, sustainable …). And I am not agains foie gras e.g. (as long as you know how it’s made and by whom; there are some industrial producers I would never buy from), but here I am, writing about a souffle au grenouille for a cook book and I know how frogs loose their legs and how the whole process works and this is one of the few subjects I am not comfortable with. Finally: and I think frog meat really is overrated. Let’s leave it here ;-)

        Reply
        • Pieter J. Bogaers

          In short: every animal should be treated with respect while killing it. I’m afraid this doesn’t apply to the killing of frogs.

          Reply
        • Well actually I have to agree with you on frog meat being overrated, it’s the parsley and garlic that are good!
          And yes, I think we should use butchers more. I saw a programme on British television this week (I live in England now), where a butcher used the phrase which is usually used for the buying of puppies (a dog is for life, not just for Christmas), saying “A butcher is for all year, not just for Christmas”. Very true.

          Reply

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