The last time I cooked frog, I learned that if you have a frog slaughtered and skinned and leave it in the refrigerator overnight, the next day the limbs will still be inclined to jiggle back and forth and the chest will still puff in and out. Mouth agape, I watched what seemed like a completely live, animated amphibian that had lost its head and skin somewhere along the way.
I didn't take the time to examine my first frog. I used a pair of chopsticks to shimmy the frog onto the cutting board. I hacked it to pieces with a heavy butcher knife so that I wouldn't have to touch its muscles, yet the spasms continued even when I'd taken the frog apart. I was relieved to slip the sections of frog into the wok for a stir-fry. Passing some kind of culinary threshold whereby animal becomes meat, once the flesh had been sauteed in chili oil, mixing with pungent fermented black beans and juicy peppers, the anxiety went away.
I didn't buy another frog for a long while. The idea of Frankenstein's frog still struck me as vaguely creepy, even though in the meantime I had butchered animals, seen animals slaughtered, seen them being kept in large containments on farms.
This time around I was determined to spend some time studying its anatomy prior to cooking. When I slipped the frog out of the bag its little body twitched in my hand. I tugged on its limbs and felt the muscles, taut and resistant against my pull. I dropped the body from several feet above onto a wooden cutting board. The frog landed with its fore and hind legs symmetically gripping the surface of the board, as if ready to leap away with another hop. I pulled on one toe in the leg, which activated a muscle elsewhere in the body.
Frog soup: unless you are cooking a lot of frogs, its delicate flesh will hardly flavor the broth. Instead, add the frog to soups that already have a flavorful broth. I had one of the best frog soups in China, where in hot pot style, they brought the frog whole but dissembled to the table and had us dip each piece in a spicy broth with Sichuan peppercorns and wood ear mushrooms. Frog also tastes good in a more subtle broth, such as dashi. I added my frog to a miso soup I had simmering on the stove; the slightly seafood-y taste of the flesh added a sweetness to the broth, and the texture of the frog was silky and tender. It was a restorative broth, and it was nicer still to shed the last dregs of squeamishness about the whole process. A body is just a body, even if it is mortuus animatus.
- Yield:four as a hearty soup
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 2 frogs, approximately 2 pounds total, gutted and skinned
- 4 cups dashi
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup miso paste - shiro, aka, or a combination thereof
- 2 tablespoons wakame
- finely sliced green onions to garnish
Rinse frogs under cold running water. Set aside.
In medium-sized soup pot or saute pan, bring dashi to steady simmer. Place washed frogs in pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add miso paste to pot and incorporate into broth by pressing miso paste against edge of soup pot. Simmer for 5 minutes longer, until frog flesh is cooked through but still very tender. Add wakame to pot and let soften in broth.
Serve immediately. Garnish with green onions.