I grew up watching Reading Rainbow – bear with me – and on LeVar Burton's “My Little Island” episode, he visits the Caribbean island of Montserrat. There, he visits the sandy beaches, discovers exotic fruits and vegetables at the street market, and most interestingly, LeVar follows a local into the mountains to look for the “mountain chicken.”
Leptodactylus fallax, commonly known as the mountain chicken or giant ditch frog, is a frog species endemic to the Caribbean islands. True to its name, the mountain chicken was highly sought after for its meat, and as a result, the species is now critically endangered on Montserrat. After one good look in the jungle, LeVar and his guide let the frog go.
I was probably 7 or 8 years old when I saw this episode, and I never forgot it. While no mountain chickens were harmed in this recipe, I can’t say the same for our American bullfrog. Fortunately, Lithobates catesbeianus are doing well and thriving – invasive, even, in some areas.
Whenever it comes to sourcing wild game, be sure to check your local regulations. Here in Nebraska, for instance, a fishing permit is required to harvest bullfrogs and legal methods of take are by hand, hand net or hook-and-line. Frogs must be at least 4.5 inches from snout to vent. Bag limit is 8 and possession is 16. The bullfrog season runs August 15 - Oct. 31 east of U.S. Highway 81.
If you've yet to try frog legs, this dish is your excuse to remedy that. Make a plan, keep this recipe handy and get out in the next few weeks. You won't be disappointed.
Grilled Jerk Frog Legs
2 entrees or 4 appetizers
- 8 frog legs (4 frogs)
- ½ cup chopped green onions
- 1 tbs of ground allspice
- 2 tbs of red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp of kosher salt, plus extra
- 1 tsp of freshly chopped thyme
- 1 tbs of soy sauce
- ½ tbs ground cinnamon
- Dash of ground nutmeg
- 1 jalapeno, Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, roughly chopped (halve and/or remove seeds for less spiciness)*
- Canola oil for brushing
- Lime wedges
*For reference, Scotch bonnet peppers, while more authentic to jerk recipes, are much spicier than jalapeno peppers. I can’t always find Scotch bonnet peppers at the store, so recipes often call on the habanero as substitute. Adjust spiciness and pepper variety according to your taste.
- In a food processor, puree green onions, allspice, vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt, thyme, soy sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper.
- Rinse frog legs under cold water, pat dry and place in a zip-top bag. Pour marinade into the bag, massage and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
- Prepare grill for direct, medium-high heat cooking. Lightly coat the grates with oil, and when hot, grill the frog legs for 2-4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve frog legs hot with lime wedges on the side.
Photos by author