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Going down a storm

Celebrate Bastille Day with a quintessentially French dish.

 

I have just returned from my annual trip to France, where I meet up with girlfriends to shop and eat. As usual, I planned most of our meals in advance, revisiting favourite Parisian restaurants such as Le Comptoir du Relais and A la Biche au Bois, and trying new (to me) places, including Passage 53, Chez l'Ami Jean and Septime (for which I had to wake up at 5.30am three weeks before we ate there so I could book online at 6am [midnight in France]; by 6.07am, all the tables had been reserved). Since today is the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, in 1789, I thought there couldn't be a better way to mark the occasion than with recipes that use les cuisses de grenouilles, one of my favourite French foods.
 

Frog's legs with green pea, mint and garlic purée and parsley pesto 

12 pairs of frog legs, separated

Milk, for soaking the legs

 

Plain (all-purpose) flour, for dredging

1-2 eggs, whisked

Panko (Japanese bread crumbs), as needed

Oil, for frying

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the parsley pesto:

80 grams fresh parsley leaves

1 small garlic clove, sliced

About 50ml extra-virgin olive oil

About 25ml fresh lemon juice

 

For the green pea, mint and garlic purée:

450 grams petits pois

2-3 garlic cloves, sliced

About 150ml cream

15 grams fresh mint leaves

A frog's leg, if it hasn't been trimmed, is composed of three pieces: the foot, the leg portion and the thigh. Cut off the foot where it meets the leg joint, and discard it. Use a very sharp paring knife to cut the tendons at the bottom of the leg (close to where the foot was), cutting around the whole circumference of the bone to completely sever the tendon. Push the leg meat up toward the thigh portion, past the joint where the thigh and leg meet, scraping the leg bone as needed to smoothly detach the flesh. When you're finished, the leg bone will be clean, and all the leg meat will be on the thigh side of the top joint, so that it looks like a frog's leg "lollipop". Put the prepared legs into a bowl, cover with milk then leave for about 30 minutes at room temperature while preparing the purée and pesto.

Put the parsley in the bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic, olive oil and lemon juice then season with salt. Process until the parsley is roughly chopped. Add more olive oil and/or lemon juice if needed. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and rinse out the food processor.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the peas and garlic and simmer until tender. Reserve about 100ml of the cooking water, then drain the peas but don't rinse them. Put the peas in the bowl of the food processor and add the cream and some salt. Process until smooth, then add the mint leaves and process again. If the mixture is too thick, add more cream and/or some of the water used to cook the peas. Keep the purée warm.

Drain the frog's legs and dry them with paper towels. Season them lightly with salt. Put some flour into a shallow dish and mix in some salt and pepper. Put the beaten egg in another shallow dish and the panko in a third. Dredge the frog's legs in the flour, then coat with the egg. Dip in the panko, pressing on the breadcrumbs so they adhere.

Pour oil to a depth of about 1.5cm in a skillet and set it over a medium flame. Fry the frog legs in the hot oil until medium brown and cooked through (about three to four minutes). Drain them on paper towels. Spread the pea purée onto plates and add the frog's legs. Spoon the parsley pesto onto the plate and serve.
 

Butter-fried frog's legs with garlic, anchovy, capers and tomato

12 pairs of frog legs, separated

Milk, as needed

Plain (all-purpose) flour, for dredging

500 grams unsalted butter

2 medium-sized ripe, sweet tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, minced

1-2 anchovies in olive oil, drained then finely chopped

1 heaped tbsp capers, drained

Chopped parsley, for sprinkling

Lemon wedges, for squeezing

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim off and discard the feet then put the frog's legs in a bowl, cover them with milk and leave at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Put the butter in a saucepan and heat it over a medium-low flame. Cook it until it turns a pale golden. Skim the foam from the surface of the melted butter. Carefully pour the clarified butter into a heatproof glass jar, leaving behind the milky liquid at the bottom of the pan.

Cut an X in the base of each tomato. Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the tomatoes and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain the tomatoes and as soon as they're cool enough to handle, strip off the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half and discard the pulp and seeds. Cut the flesh into fine dice.

Drain the frog's legs and dry them with paper towels. Season them with salt then dredge them in flour and shake off the excess.

Heat 100 grams of the clarified butter in a skillet and, when it's hot, add 12 of the frog's legs. Pan-fry them, turning them over once, until golden brown and cooked through, then put them on a serving platter. Discard the butter in the skillet and clean and dry it, then repeat the process with 100 grams of the butter and the remaining frog's legs. Clean the pan and dry it. Heat another 100 grams of the butter in the skillet and add the garlic and anchovy. Heat until sizzling then add the capers and tomato and season with pepper (it might not need salt). Cook briefly, then spoon this mixture over the frog legs on the serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley then serve with lemon wedges.

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