Eating snails is not an everyday occurrence for most of us. Though admittedly tasty and renowned as a super food, there can be a lot of preparation involved if you’re doing it from scratch, and it’s not the cheapest food out there either. But there’s more to the humble escargot than the traditional garlic butter recipe. We set out to find some alternative ways you could get your favourite gastropod onto your menu more often.
Most often, restaurants offer us a standard escargot starter; the cleaned snails’ shells are stuffed with garlic butter and the fleshy bit is put back in for baking in the oven. It’s a super tasty and traditional treatment of the dish, but there are more unusual ways to serve escargot. For a more summery feel, why not try making a quick and easy snail and hazelnut salad to serve to your guests? Some pre-prepared snails can be quickly fried with shallots and garlic, adding a half-cup of white wine and cooked until it reduces by half. Add black pepper and thyme, and then stir in roasted chopped hazelnuts. Served with some endive and radicchio leaves dressed in champagne vinegar and orange zest, this makes a fantastic fresh-tasting starter to any meal and only takes forty minutes to make.
Let’s not forget that escargot is not only a traditional French food, the Spanish, and in particular the Catalans, have a healthy tradition of snail eating, too. So with that in mind, why not try a different take on the classic paella? But instead of the usual chicken and seafood option, a rabbit and snail version is bound to excite the palate with its meaty constitution. A trick of the trade is to slow cook the rabbit beforehand and add the meat in tender strips. When it comes to the snail element, they are dropped on top and allowed to cook along with the rice. Paella differs from risotto in that the pan is never stirred and it is cooked at a high boil, not a simmer. With chunky summer veg and tomatoes, this recipe exploits the meatiness of canned Burgundy snails.
Snails as a snack
Sometimes we don’t fancy making a big involved recipe, so thankfully there are also easy ways to munch on molluscs. For a tasty Escargot Gratins snail snack, simmer the escargot in a pan of consommé and bay leaves – this will get rid of any rubbery feel. Then cover in garlic butter and let sit for a while. Cover the buttery escargot with grated cheese and grill briefly. Served with chunky toast this makes a very satisfying snack or starter.