UPDATE: Today’s Miami Herald also covers Everglades frog gigging! For an added layer of information on the local industry, read outdoors columnist Susan Cocking’s article in the Tropical Life section.
Our fish guy George Figueroa also deals in the amphibious. He’s been sourcing local frog legs for Michael for years now, and it’s that long since Chef has wanted to go along for the ride.
Conditions have to be just right, and the frogs — mostly bull, but also pig and leopard — are most easily spotted at night with their eyes reflecting light from a headlamp. It was late afternoon on October 5 when Michael finally got his chance, meeting up with George and fisherman Mike Sands at an early point of Big Cypress to launch the airboat.
Mike is a dying breed, one of the few local fishermen that still go out and catch frogs using a pronged gig spear. And as with fish, he cleans and skins the legs.
“There’s almost little or none domestic frog leg suppliers left in Florida due to so many coming in from Asian countries,” explains George. “They are less expensive, and the quality isn’t great either.”
Chef has always found the quality of Mike’s frog legs to be outstanding. Wild bullfrog can grow up to 2 pounds and is the best for gigging. Due to wind, the yield was only about 5 pounds of legs that day. 22 pounds came in yesterday.
Though preparations vary, frog legs are a universal dish cooked the world over, from China to France. They’re known to be farmed in Vietnam, but like The French Laundry, we enjoy them wild from the Glades. Often compared to chicken wings, buffalo-style makes sense. Plum TV will be shooting a “Best of the District” special in the neighborhood today, and they’ve asked for us to make a dish that represents us. Local frog legs it’s gonna be!