April 18, 2024

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“Frog legs were a very common dish in most of the houses in this area. Everyone ‘went to frogs’, until it was banned a few years ago (in 2018),” says Encarna Sánchez Corral, cook and owner of Casa Encarna, a restaurant and rural hotel in Zamora, in Carbellino de Sayago, a town of less than 200 inhabitants. The possible loss of this culinary tradition and a pioneering project by some neighbors who will open the largest frog farm in Europe in 2023 has made Casa Encarna specialize in these recipes.

Grenoucerie is the company promoted by Paula Echenique and Fabián Simón from Sayagué, a leader in importing and distributing frog legs, which has positioned this town on the map. In addition, it has obtained permission to be the only one to breed the Iberian common frog, an endangered species whose fishing was prohibited in 2018. “Thanks to this project they know us as the people of frogs,” says Encarna. “That is why we want to continue specializing in cooking them to give something different and of quality,” she adds.

The initiative to take care of its people has always beat in Encarna. When he feared that Carbellino would be left without a bar, more than two decades ago, he kept the transfer and opened a dining room. Later he set up a rural hotel to receive visitors who wanted to know the Sayago region and now he has just opened a grocery store so that residents can do their daily shopping. “I made up my mind during the confinement, because older people called me to ask me for sugar and other products. It saddened me that we were left without supplies and I felt that we could not leave the town to abandon ”, she explains.

Frog legs in batter, one of the recipes proposed by Casa Encarna.
Frog legs in batter, one of the recipes proposed by Casa Encarna.Almudena Avalos

The stone walls that decorate this small town know the effort behind each of Encarna’s steps, but she downplays the importance of counting them. His frog legs recipes soon drew attention in the region and diners from other provinces began to come to his house to eat them. That is why she decided to definitely include them in the offer of her restaurant. And until Grenoucerie opens the hatchery next year she will continue cooking the premium It imports from Europe and Asia.

To try them, it is essential to order them in advance by phone (675 66 90 90), agree on the number of diners —it is advisable to be more than two to be able to taste all the specialties— and close the menu with Encarna. “Frogs are a lot of work,” he confesses. He prepares them in different ways. “The recipes are the sauces that have always been cooked in my house with all the ingredients from the gardens of Zamora. We make them in six different ways and they all need a 10-hour marinade the day before, because it is a meat that has a hard time picking up salt. That is why we cannot improvise on the fly, ”he acknowledges. “The marinade consists of a mash of garlic and parsley with oil, salt and lemon”, he clarifies.

Of all the preparations, the one that most triumphs among its clientele is that of tomato sauce. “It is a kind of ratatouille with a lot of onion, tomato, pepper strips and garlic. Here we add the largest legs because the stew calls for it, ”he explains. The next to come out are the onions. “They don’t have much of a mystery: we poach the onion slowly, the garlic, and the meat just turn and turn,” she says. Another traditional way of presenting them is breaded in the pan or sautéed with garlic.

In addition, when you have many diners, they also offer them in a toast format and serve them as an appetizer at the bar. “For the toasts we use the pearls —a cut-up part of the thigh that is sold separately at the Grenaucerie— and we make them with a marinade of paprika, oregano and a little pepper. We sauté them with garlic in the pan, toast the bread and serve them on the slice with a puree base”, he details. As for the price, the dozen costs 15 euros regardless of its preparation. “Some are more work than others, but we charge them all the same,” she says. And the average price is around 25 euros.

The dining room of Casa Encarna, in the small town of Carbellino de Sayago in Zamora.
The dining room of Casa Encarna, in the small town of Carbellino de Sayago in Zamora.Almudena Avalos

the rest of offer

“Not everything is frogs,” emphasizes Encarna. “Those who like him go crazy, but it is true that others are not attracted to him at all. We have many groups that order stew, potatoes with leg, other homemade stews and a menu of the day for workers in the area. They also ask us for a lot of meat because people already know that it comes from my son’s farm and now they have introduced the Angus breed”, he explains. Encarna counts the days until the frog farm opens: “We are very excited about the inauguration because it will give jobs,” she says excitedly. She only thinks about the future of her town and, for that, she ties the past and the present well with her cooking.

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