Friday, January 18, 2008

Notre Recherche d'Escargots

It was a dark and stormy August night....ok, so maybe it wasn't stormy, but it was dark! So dark in fact, that we huddled together carrying flashlights. As we tiptoed through Monsieur Gonfalone's jardin the excitement grew. Was it too early? Would we find them? If so, how many?
There had been a storm earlier in the day and the snails would likely be out en masse. They love the moisture and a good rain encourages them to move about and eat some fresh greens. I've enjoyed escargots all buttery and garlicky, in restaurants and there is something appealing to me about gathering them up, as fresh as can be, to recreate the French specialty in the kitchen of our gite.
Emily and I had a great time snail hunting during our two-week stay at the Gite de La Ferme De La Magdelaine. Although we found many, many snails each night, we did not capture and cook them. I have every intention of doing just that this spring and will write about the experience, now that I have been advised by some knowledgeable French gourmand that you can actually catch and eat these slimy suckers! My adviser told me to feed them lettuce for a day or so, and then purge them in salt water. He didn't know the specifics, so I went to Food Network, my trusty resource for all things edible and this is what I found:

If using fresh snails, follow the procedure below for cleaning and preparing the shells:
INGREDIENTS: 48 fresh snails in their shells; White vinegar; Salt; Dry white wine; 1 onion, coarsely chopped; 2 carrots, coarsely chopped; 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped; 1 bouquet garni; 10 cloves garlic, mashed; Salt & Freshly ground black pepper

Allow snails to fast for at least 1 day. (I'm guessing this starts after you feed them on lettuce, for a day or two)
Rinse snails under cold running water and then transfer to a large bowl and cover with white vinegar and a handful of salt. Cover snails with a heavy plate to keep them submerged and allow them to purge for at least 3 hours. Rinse again under cold running water and clean thoroughly to remove all traces of mucous. Place snails in a small saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 10 minutes. Drain and remove snails from their shells. Transfer shells to another saucepan and cover with salted water and boil for at least 30 minutes. Remove shells from the water, clean thoroughly and let them dry completely before proceeding. Clean shelled snails again and remove the black part at the end of the tail. Place snails in a saucepan and cover with a mixture of half water and half dry white wine. Add onion, carrots, celery, bouquet garni, 10 cloves garlic, salt, and pepper. Partially cover saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 hours, or until tender, and allow snails to cool in cooking liquid. Drain snails (discard poaching liquid) and pat snails dry. Proceed with recipe as directed.

Now, here is a great recipe for escargots from this part of France:
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
Salt and pepper
3 dozen fresh snails, purged and removed from the shell
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup aioli, recipe follows
1 cup fine dried bread crumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Loaf crusty French bread

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the shallots. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 1 minute. Add the snails and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to saute for 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the cold butter. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the pan from the heat. Place the snails in the porcelain snail dishes. Spoon the liquid over each snail. Spoon a teaspoon of the aioli over each snail. In a small mixing bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley and remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the aioli. Place the dishes on a baking dish and place on the top shelf of the oven. Broil for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool slightly. Serve the snails with French Bread and wine.

Aioli: 4 cloves garlic
2 egg yolks
Pinch salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
Place the garlic in a large mortar and crush. Add the eggs and incorporate. Season with salt. Slowly stir in the oil, a little at a time, until all of the oil is incorporated and the mixture is like a thick mayonnaise. Yield: about 1 cup


Cecily said...

I am really enjoying your blogs! Can you post an update on how your daughter is doing at her new French school? I found your blog from Kristin's French Word a Day blog. Cecily

Rootin' Tutens said...

I am excited to find your blog francais! Or provencial? I will start teaching French again for my kids' home school co-op and there are so many online resources! I'm glad to count yours and Kristin's.
C'est super!
Susan in Arizona.
PS. since vie is feminine, shouldn't quotidien be quotidienne? The teacher in me, sorry. Just wondering.

John said...

Hey Sparky,
Where are you??? What have you decided to do for your Birthday?? Remember... Whomever is reading this...The big day is Valentine's day. Actually, more important is Susan Sparkman's BIRTHDAY!!!!! YeaH!!!