Frog Legs and Southern Cheese Grits
You can tell a lot about a Southern restaurant by its shrimp and grits. If it take shortcuts like using instant grits, water instead of stock and just tossing quickly sautéed or boiled shrimp on top, chances are good that it will take shortcuts with the entire menu.
A good bowl of grits takes a little work. Start with stone-ground grits. We get ours locally from Wiesenberger Mill, where they have been grinding corn in the same location since 1865. Treat them right by using a combination of chicken stock and half and half or heavy cream for the liquid. Salt them well, bring them just to a boil, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Stir constantly to keep the bottom grits from sticking to the pot and burning. Once your grits reach the right consistency, move them from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese until everything is rich and smooth.
We often substitute frog legs for shrimp in our recipes. And the frog leg version is often better than the original. For this one, we season the frog legs with Everglades Original Blend Seasoning, then lightly dredge them in flour for a bit of extra flavor and crunch.
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups half and half
1 cup stone-ground grits
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
3 bacon strips, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 to 2 pounds of frog legs, skinned
6 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon Everglades Original Seasoning
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup seafood stock
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions or chives, divided
Prepare the grits by adding the chicken stock and half and half to a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Add the grits and salt. Stir well and bring the mixture to a light boil, then reduce the heat back down to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring almost constantly.
Once the grits are plump and tender, move the pot from the heat and stir in the butter and cheeses until the mixture is smooth. Add the hot sauce and black pepper, stirring well to blend. Return the grits to the heat, on the lowest setting, to hold warm while you prepare the frog legs. Stir the grits often to keep them from sticking. If they get too thick, simply add a tablespoon or two of chicken stock to thin them back down.
For the frog legs, start by rendering the diced bacon in a cast-iron skillet until crisp. I like to do this step while the grits are cooking. Scoop out the cooked bacon and reserve. Season the frog legs with the Everglades seasoning mixture. Dredge lightly in flour.
Turn up the heat on the bacon grease to medium. Add the seasoned frog legs and cook, turning a few times along the way, until crispy brown and just cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the leg size. Fry in batches if the legs won't all fit in the pan at once. Just tent the finished legs with foil while the next batch cooks.
Remove the frog legs from the pan and hold on a warm platter. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add half the diced chives or green onions. Pour in the seafood stock (substitute chicken stock if you don't have shrimp or seafood stock handy) and the white wine. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring to release any stuck-on bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the stock and wine have reduced, by half, add the lemon juice and turn the heat down to low and stir in the butter, a pat at a time, stirring as you go. Add the Tabasco sauce. Return the frog legs and rendered bacon to the pan.
To plate, add a healthy serving of grits to a bowl, then top with 2 to 3 frog legs. Spoon over the sauce and garnish with a sprinkling of the remaining diced chives or green onions.