To kill them or to eat them! That is my question, my garden is so full of escargot.
If I ought to call them snails, slimy little creatures that destroy my plants and food crops, then I feel to kill them, but if I think of them as escargot, suddenly they become expensive and precious morsels.
Ancient Greeks and Romans appreciated escargot as a fine and delicate dish. Before cooking them, they purified their little stomach by leaving them to soak in milk bath for a few days until the snails got totally bloated and couldn’t get in their shells anymore. Purify them meant to eliminate any bitter grass or poisonous fungi (to humans) the snails had possibly eaten. The same practice goes on today.
The annals tell us that in 49 B.C. a certain Fulvio Lippino was the importer of snails from the islands of Sardinia, Sicily, Capri, from Spain, France and North Africa and supplied the large demand of the rich Romans.
Through the Middle Ages a plate of snails was well-regarded as a lean speciality. In fact, 3.5 oz. of snail meat without shells has only 0.4 protein and 0.05 fat, which means that calories are less than 65 per 3.5 oz. It is highly digestible, the meat contains water, salt and the shell transfers calcium and phosphorus to the meat. Snails are good food to protect against bacteria.
I thought that snails were one of the few poor food farmers could afford to eat. With rustic bread, a piece of cheese and a robust red wine their meal was complete, but at the beginning of 1800’s French chefs revived this little crawlers with the famous Escargot à la Bourguignonne, raising the price to a new height.
As I said earlier, before tackling the cooking it’s important to purify the snails from their saliva and impurities in their bellies. One way is to close them in a box with a lid well aerated on the bottom and leave them to dry for a few days; another way is to feed them corn meal until they are really fat (just like keeping them in milk) and can’t get back into their shells. Some people scald them in hot water. Whatever method you will choose, this process it’s important to eliminate the bitter taste and impurities.
Infinite are the ways to cook snails. My favorite way is with a light tomato sauce, easy and simple.
The only ingredients needed are:
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sun dried tomatoes (a few)
Chopped fresh tomatoes
1 Glass of white wine
A hand full of fresh basil leaves
Salt and hot chili pepper to taste
Sauté in olive oil snails with the shells, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Flavor with 1 glass of white wine and let it evaporate.
Add chopped fresh tomatoes. Season it with salt and chili peppers to your taste and cook for about 15-18 minutes.
Before serving, give it a sprinkle of fresh basil leaves.
This is the way my grandmother made them and has remained my favorite of all snail recipes from Puglia.
How To Eat Escargot
- Snail tongs and a slender two-pronged snail fork are always at to the right of the plate.
- Use the tongs to grip and hold the snail-shell in place.
- Use the snail fork to pull out the meat from the shell.
- Savor the escargot, then the sauce. Tear off a small piece of bread (usually a rustic type). Using the snail fork, dip the bread into the sauce. Enjoy the dish until the bread is gone. Trying not clean the plate completely it’s hard to do, but in a restaurant is not a good manner.
Bon appétit. Ciao,
Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
“The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star.” ~ Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms.
Check her two Italian regional cuisine books in this site on the Books page and on Amazon: http://tiny.cc/pkoo0
Her new book ©Red-A Voyage Into Colors is about ready for publishing. Stay tuned!