As I’ve been volunteering on a small organic farm in southern France, I’ve had the pleasure to eat some of the best meals of my entire life. One of my absolute favorite meals is hands-down, Stèphane’s escargot. Before my visit to Stèphane and Silvia’s farm, La Ferme du Lamalou, I thought escargot was a dish found only in white tablecloth restaurants; however, it’s the basis of a delicious and homey meal for those adventurous enough to try it. They’re delicious on a slice of toasted wholegrain bread and served with sides of your choice.
Escargot (or cooked snails) isn’t a dish reserved only for high-cuisine in up-scale French restaurants. You can make delicious escargot at your own home and enjoy an authentic taste of France!
Stèphane gathers the large, Brown Garden Snail, but any number of varieties of snails can be used. If you are gathering snails from your own garden, Gail Damerow has written a great Mother Earth News article titled, Escargot from Your Own Backyard, to aid you. Surprisingly, you can also often find packaged snails ready to cook in any number of grocery stores, if you aren’t able to gather your own.
Yields 4-8 servings
• 50-100 snails
• 1-2 sticks of butter
• 2-4 tbsp of minced parsley
• 2-3 minced cloves of garlic
• 1-2 minced shallots
• 3-4 tbsp crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
• 2-4 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
• Salt, pepper, and any variety of your favorite seasonings to taste
•*An additional 1/2 to 1 full cup of salt is needed if preparing the full recipe from fresh, live snails.
Preparing Fresh (Live) Escargot
(If using pre-packaged snails, please skip to next section.)
After you gather your snails, you are going to keep them for a ten-day cleansing period. For the first 7 days, you can feed the snails lettuce (or for a pre-seasoning, fresh herbs), but with a good supply of fresh, clean water. For the last 3 days, withhold food, but not water. This fasting period allows the snails to digest their last meal and helps clean out their system.
To make the snails release all of their slime, cover them in water combined with about two tablespoons of salt per dozen snails. Let them soak for about 30 minutes and rinse. Place the snails in boiling water and simmer for about 2 hours. Let the water cool. Rinse the snails again and extract the escargots from their shells. Cut or pull off the dark-colored back half of the extracted portion of the snail and discard. The escargots are now ready for the next stage in cooking.
The Easy Method (Stèphane’s preferred): Put all ingredients in a pan and cook covered on a low heat, for 15 minutes. Spice to taste. You can add anything from curry to Colombo to zest up these tasty morsels.
The “Fancy” Method: After preparing the snails to cook, put each snail back into a shell. Mix all remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add a spoonful of the mixture into each shell. Open-end up, bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) for no longer than 15 minutes.
Serve hot and enjoy! Bon appétit!
Read all of Russell’s adventures (and misadventures) as he volunteers on organic farms in France by clicking here. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for other interesting recipes, straight from the farm kitchen!
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