...or in English: Snails from the garden. Sounds much better in French, doesn't it?
If you won't eat snails from your garden in the name of sustainability, and if their incredible nutritional breakdown* doesn't get you excited, then you will just have to cross your fingers that the time and effort ( and butter) you put into preparing this dish will give your the courage to have a taste. Escargot is rich and tasty and if prepared properly, its soft tenderness is pleasantly surprising.
*100 grams of snail contains 16g protein, 2 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of fat ( high in omega-3 fatty acids). Also, from 100 grams of snail you get a whopping 19% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of Iron, 25% RDI of Vitamin E and 40% RDI of Selenium!
I figure, killing snails will be like killing a chicken. There is a point - between gutting the warm animal and butchering - that the chicken starts to look like food. This is going to be gut-wrenching for me as I have made serious efforts to avoid the cute slow-movers and shiver toe to head when I hear a crunch beneath my foot.
Snails take 7-10 days to get ready, so by that point, maybe I will be more keen to eat them.
Below are instructions adapted from Pat and Bob Reynolds' recipe ( one that the BBC used: here)
Step 1: Collect snails (Helix Aspersa) in a container. As an appetizer, a serving is about 7 snails per person. So let's assume you've dragged 3 friends into this endevor and collect about 30 snails.
Step 2: Cover the container VERY tightly with mesh or something that will allow the snails to breathe but not escape ( can you imagine waking up to an army of snails marching towards you in slow motion? Horrifying!
Step 3: For 7-10 days, feed the snails cabbage or lettuce. (If you want organic snails, feed them organic lettuce.) This cleans them out much the same way as feeding cornmeal water to shellfish*. Good, edible stuff goes in and sandy, gritty stuff comes out.
*Did you know snails are terrestrial mollusks?
Step 4: Plop your friends into a sieve and then dunk them in boiling water. This is to kill them, not cook them, so only keep them in the water for a few seconds.
Step 5: Use a fork to pull the snail from its shell. Keep the shells in one bowl ( they are nice for presentation purposes) and the snails in another. Give the snails a rinse under lukewarm, running water.
Step 6: In a pot, combine:
100ml dry cider,
One small carrot, roughly chopped
One small white onion, roughly chopped
*Make sure they are covered with liquid. Add a bit more water if they are not.
Step 7: Bring to a boil and then turn the heat way down and let them simmer for about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile: Boil the shells in salted water, rinse in cold water and repeat two more times. Put the shells on a tray and dry them in a warm oven.
Step 8: Nothing like a bit of butter to take away your worries.
In a small bowl, mix together the following:
1/4 lbs salted butter, room temperature.
½ tsp fresh Chervil, chopped finely
½ tsp fresh Dill, chopped finely
½ tsp fresh Basil, chopped finely
½ tsp fresh Sage, chopped finely
3 teaspoons fresh Parsley*, chopped finely
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
*Curly parsley is easier to cut, but often sandier. Flat leaf parsley has more flavour.
While you're chopping herbs, finely chop some chives, and save some parsley, which you can use as garnish.
Step 9: I bet you're starting to get hungry. You may even be talking to your snails now, threatening them that they better be delicious after all this hard work and time you've put in. Push a little of the butter mixture into the shell, right to the back. Put in the snail and then seal him in there with more delicious herby butter. You can do this ahead of time, and keep them in the fridge after assembled, or you can cook them right away.
Step 10: To serve, place the escargot de la jardin on escargot trays ( or on a baking sheet if you don't have one) and into a hot hot oven. When the butter bubbles, they are ready. Serve with crusty bread.
The photo above was taken by Mellie at five star restaurant, Vue de Monde