Fried Frog Legs with Prosciutto Red-Eyed Gravy

A Fusion Experiment

Today on Cooking with Vinny we’re going to do a sort of Southern, French, Italian fusion dish. I’m going to make Chicken Fried Frog Legs with a Prosciutto Red-eyed gravy. I may have lost some of you at Frog Legs but this recipe can be used for anything you want to fry, chicken, steak or zucchini.

Charred frog leg bones were found at an archaeological site in the Czech Republic dating from about 2900 B.C – So why do we think of the French when it comes to eating frog legs? I read this account in several articles on the internet so it must be true. From the Guardian.

During one of those all too frequent periods when monks were deemed to be growing too fat, the church authorities apparently ordered them not to eat meat on a certain number of days a year. Cunningly, the monks got frogs qualified as fish, which didn’t count as meat. Religiously observant but hungry French peasants duly followed their example, and a national delicacy was born.
Read the full article:

New Orleans was settled by the French and it’s no surprise that Louisianna is the largest producer and consumer of frog legs in the US. But I’m sure that given the swamps around New Orleans the people would have gotten around to eating them soon enough.

Frog gigging is popular in the swamps and creeks in the South but I’d put money on the fact that no one goes frog gigging in any of the 5 boroughs of New York, because if they did, it would be a reality TV show.

When I first moved to the South I made the mistate of putting sugar on my grits because it looked like cream of wheat to me. I’d never, as my Cousin Vinny said, “seen a grit,” let alone eat one. If looks could kill. So when I saw Chicken Fried Steak on a menu, I was not about to order it. Was it chicken? Was it steak? I figured it was fried, but didn’t want to look stupid… again.

Turns out it is steak (usually a cheap cut that has had the crap pounded out of it to make it more tender) then breaded and fried like chicken.

Some say it’s because the steak is fried in the same grease that chicken was fried in. And that may have been at one time but why not call it Green Tomato Fried Steak or Catfish Fired Steak. In a restaurant with a fryer, anything thing fried goes into it the same grease. Animal or vegetable, it doesn’t matter. Food these days is what you call it. You can make anything and call it anything. Just like any drink served in a cocktail glass is a martini. Don’t get me started. Or read my post on National Dry Martini Day.

Traditionally Chicken Fried Steak or Country Fried Steak is served with some type of gravy. I like to use a red-eye gravy. Again you’ll see YouTube video where coffee is added to the pan drippings and that’s it. If it splashes it’s not gravy, it’s juice. The South did not invent gravy they just put in on everything. Gravy needs to at least coat a spoon. So the Red-eyed gravy I make is a little more complex and tastes a lot better than ham fat and coffee.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED. (serves 4)

For the Gravy
1 cup chopped prosciutto
5 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons of flour
1 small onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 cup half and half or milk
1 cup brewed strong coffee
1 cup beef broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Frog Legs
8-10 pairs of frog legs depending on their size.
2 ½ cups Flour
1 cup Fine Corn Meal
2 Large eggs beaten
Salt
Pepper
Smoked Paprika (optional)
Oil for frying

Start by making the red-eyed gravy.

Prosciutto is leaner than bacon or even country ham, the pork of choice in the South. So I place the chopped prosciutto in a fry pan with a couple of tablespoons of butter and cook for about 10 minutes over a medium heat. Remove the prosciutto and set aside. Add butter into the pan to bring the amount of fat up to 3 Tablespoons. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent.

Add the 3 tablespoons of flour to the pan and stir to make a roux. Cook until a golden brown. Now add the coffee and the half and half. Stir to blend all the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring often. Return the cooked prosciutto to the pan, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Using half and half and cooking this long is going to make a very thick gravy. I used a cup of beef broth to thin it somewhat. It was still thick. Using milk instead of 1/2 and 1/2 and cooking less time will make a thinner sauce. Give the gravy a taste and add additional salt of pepper if needed. Remember the Prosciutto is very salty so don’t add salt before after cooking the gravy.

While the sauce is simmering you can prepare the frog legs. The Legs will usually come in pairs so separate them and pat dry with paper towel. Set out 3 pans or bowels. One for 1 cup of plain flour, one for the 2 beaten eggs, and one for the rest of the flour mixed with the cornmeal and seasoned with salt, pepper and smoked paprika.

Roll the Frog legs in the plain flour then dip into the beaten egg … let the excess drip off then dredge them in the seasoned flour and corn meal and place on a rack to dry. Depending on how much of the seasoned flour coats the legs you may notice that they look moist. You can double dip if you like. In the South people like to double dip, double batter anything that’s fried. You end up with more breading than meat. Of course this is one way to stretch your meal as flour and corn meal is cheaper than meat.

Put about 2 inches of cooking oil in a cast iron skillet and heat to a temperature of 350. Put the Frog Legs into the grease and cook about 6 minutes turning occasionally making sure not to burn them.

Transfer the cooked legs to a rack while you finish cooking the rest of the legs.

Allow 4 legs (2 pair) per person.

NOTE: A cast iron skillet is the best for frying. Oil temperature is best between 350 – 370 degrees. If the oil is not hot enough the breading will absorb too much grease and if it’s too hot you’ll have nice crispy coating with under cooked meat underneath. Also do not crowd the frying pan, this too will make for a soggy coating. How do you know when the oil is hot enough? I’ll place a wooden skewer or wooden chopstick in the oil. If the oil is hot enough bubbles will show up around the wood and rise to the surface. If the wood burns it’s too hot, if the bubbles aren’t rising it’s not hot enough. I’ve also heard that putting in a kernel of popcorn into the oil. When the temperature is 350 degrees the kernel will pop.

CAUTION: I can’t stress enough not to look into the skillet or even stand close to it as HOT oil will fly out of the pan when the kernel pops. This is also true when frying the frog legs. Sometimes moisture is released from the meat and the water will create a pop and a splatter.

Note: A really fancy way to make fried frog legs (but wasteful) is “Frenching the Legs.” No really, that’s what they call it. Check out this video. How to French a Frog leg: 

Ciao For Now

Chefs & Their Tattoos

I recently returned from the American Culinary Federation Convention in Kansas City. I was so totally humbled by the talent that was represented from all over the country. It also made me realize how much has changed in the food business.

My first restaurant gig was 1970 at the Top of the Hub, 52 floor of the Prudential Building, Boston. I was a fry cook. They hired me because — I showed up for the interview. I mean fry cook, right? Someone gives you something, you put it in the grease and then take it out before it burns. It’s not rocket science.

There isn’t much I haven’t done in a restaurant. Front of the house, back of the house, back of the walk-in. Everything from Slinging hash to tossing pizza, from salad prep to charcuterie chef. But it’s been 28 years since I’ve been on a kitchen line and a lot has changed.

The Biggest change I’ve noticed, tattoos. This is especially noticeable among the younger chefs. At the ACF Convention I did an informal survey with un scientific results. I wanted to see if there was any pattern that could be devised.

Okra and Garlic

Okra and Garlic

One man I met had a tattoo of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. One man had two I CHING – hexagrams, ancient Chinese text on his forearm. One was the symbol for “OVEN” the other was for “MOUTH.” He talked about feeding the world and then he got all esoteric on me and my eyes started to glaze over.

One chef had two concentric circles on the palm of his hand. What, I asked, is the symbolism? The smaller inner circle, he said. was a teaspoon and the larger outer circle was a tablespoon. Practical.

I spoke woman just out of culinary school who had a beautiful tattoo of a chef’s knife with the words written in script, “Mise en Place.” A french phrase for putting in place. In the cooking world it is the the area that has all the stuff you need on a regular basis during your shift. She said it was a constant reminder to keep her shit together

Goonies_post

Chef Jeff Morris’ Goonies Tattoo

Jeff Morris, chef/owner of The Copper Pot in Clarkesville, GA has an incredible tattoo. It is is not food oriented but is a tattoo of substantial meaning to him. His entire right arm is a storyboard for the 1985 Richard Donner film, “Goonies.” He was 8 years old when he first saw the movie and it obviously had a huge effect on him. There is only so much real estate on your body for ink so one needs to put some thought into what tattoos you’re getting. The photo here is just the upper arm. Down the rest of his arm and and forearm are other iconic images from the movie: The treasure map, the waterfall, the wishing well, the doubloon that was used to align clues, an image of Sloth with a pirate hat and of course the slogan, “Goonies Never Say Die.” True dedication.

And by the way, if you’re ever in North Georgia, make your way over to the Copper Pot for a great Lunch, Dinner or Sunday Brunch. They also have a full bar which is not always easy to find in the mountains of North Georgia.

Are you a chef? Do you have a tattoo? Tell me about it. Many more things have changed in the restaurant business and in the coming weeks I’ll be posting more of my observations.

Ciao For Now

National Lasagna Day!

Today, August 04, is National Lasagna Day

Lasagna is one of my favorite Italian dishes. In honor of National Lasagna Day I reposting a video for my version of Lasagna Bolognese. It’s made with a rich sauce that include Sweet Italian sausage and bacon. The sauce cooks for hours concentrating the flavors making this lasagna the best you’ve ever had. Yes, it’s better than your grandmother’s lasagna. 

The complete recipe and notes are available on the original post:

http://wp.me/p1EYFY-eT

 

 

 

National Dry Martini Day

June 19 – Celebrating A Classic

I just got off a cruise and there were 3 different “Mixology” classes. We tasted 9 different “Martinis.” None of them remotely resembled an actual martini. Today any libation strained into a cocktail class can be called a martini. I’m an old fashion type of guy and I’m often reminded how old I am when I have to explain how to make a martini to a bartender.

This is an actual exchange between myself and a young person tending a bar.

ME:  I’d like a Tanqueray Martini up.
BT:   Gin? Do you still want olive juice
ME:   No, I’d like vermouth.
BT:   (Slowly) Okay, you want me to put the vermouth in the glass then pour it out?
ME:   No, I’d like you to put the vermouth in and leave it.
BT:   You mean like an ingredient?

Look if you want to drink chilled vodka with olive juice, knock yourself out, just don’t call it a martini.  In this video I made last year you’ll see how to make a classic gin martini.

Drink Responsibly or stay home and drink.
Ciao Fro Now

Summer Salads

Just Add Lettuce

There are several varieties of lettuce that are looking and tasting great and we’ve been having salads for lunch and dinner. If we got up early enough to eat breakfast we’d probably have a morning salad as well. We can’t give it away fast enough so we’re making complete meals of salads.

Here are two of our favorites.

The Cobb Salad

funny speaker vinny verelli

The Ingredients.

Sharp cheddar, pickled beets, tomatoes, avocado, chicken and very thick bacon. The hard boiled eggs were placed in the jar of pickled beets for an hour to give them the red color. Leave them in for a day and the red goes deeper into the egg whites. We used a Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing.

Just Add Lettuce
Cobb Salad_close_post

Smoked Salmon Salad

Funny Speaker and celebrity Chef Vinny Verelli

The Ingredients. 

Smoked Gouda, hard boiled egg, capers, yellow pepper, pimento from a jar, chopped onion and smoked salmon. We used Annie’s Shiitake Sesame Vinaigrette. All the ingredients can be adjusted to your tastes.

Just Add Lettuce.
SalmonSalad_post

National Mint Julep Day

Funny speaker and celebrity chef gives his recipe for the perfect Mint Julep.

The secret to making a great mint julep is in the simple syrup that is infused with fresh mint. There’s only so much flavor you can get out of muddling mint.  When you use crushed ice in a drink it can quickly water down the alcohol. By using 120 Proof Single Barrel Knob Creek this dilution is minimized. The bourbon flavor is still there with sufficient kick.

Although May 30 is officially National Mint Julep Day I usually have my first Julep of the Season on Derby Day. If I’m going out of town on derby day I’ll bring fresh mint with me.

The video below was posted originally on YouTube on July 10, 2012.  I found a jar of mint simple syrup in back of the refrigerator from the day this was shot. There was a funky deposit on the bottom but I was able to skim some clean syrup off the top and make a quick julep to celebrate the day.

DRINK RESPONSIBLY… or stay home and drink.

Want some fun facts about the Mint Julep? Check out this site, MintJulepDay.com