Good Cooking since 1995
Caracoles de Tierra---Espanol
Love them or hate them! Good Cooking loves them and wants you to know the proper way of preparing them too! For the lover there is only one true snail to eat, that is the Helix Burgundy snail from France. Rather than go into the history and tradition of French enjoyment of snails Good Cooking suggests that you know a few things. Not all snails you buy are Helix Burgundy snails, in fact many are from all over the world including Malaysia, Ecuador and China. They are very different in size, taste and texture, although most of these are often somewhat cheaper. For the purpose of this instruction, Good Cooking is recommending the Helix above the others you may buy. The snails come in small and large cans and vary in size. Recommended is the size of 72 count per 850 gram can.Escargot Demystified
1 pound unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
4 tablespoons shallots, chopped fine
2 tablespoons garlic, minced---remove the center shoot
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper---not Tabasco sauce!
3/4 cup bread crumbs, fresh white, trimmed of crusts
Combine all ingredients except the bread and mix well with hands or electric mixer, then fold in the bread crumbs. Roll the butter into 2 individual logs or store in plastic containers.
To prepare the snails for stuffing in shells or cocotte (a snail dish)
The Snails are drained from the can and rinsed with cold water. Place them in a non-reactive pot and cover with the ingredients listed below, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool in an ice bath, reserving the cooking liquid, ingredients and snails. Store in plastic containers until ready to use.
Snail Poaching Liquid:
2 cups water
2 cups red wine (Beaujolais is good for this)
1 cup mirepoix, chopped small
1 bay leaf (approximately 1" by 1")
1 tbsp. crushed black peppercorns tied in cheesecloth
2 sprigs of thyme, fresh if possible, or 1 tbsp. leaves
2 tbsp. chopped garlic cloves, not pre-chopped
1 tbsp. kosher salt
Soften the butter and scoop the snails out of the liquid to drain.
The procedure is almost the same for filling shells as it is for the cocotte. Place about 2 tsp. of butter in the shell, then a drained snail (the round part goes in first so the flat part is at the shell entrance) pushing it in slightly. Seal the shell with 2-3 tsp. of butter. Repeat this process until the snails and butter are all used.If using a cocotte, first add butter, then snail and top with more butter. Use about the same amount of butter with the cocotte as with the shells so you do not waste the butter.
Heat your oven to 450, place the snails in the shell on specially made dishes to hold them upright (that is so the butter doesn't cook out of the shell). Or attractively crumple a sheet of aluminum foil into a 6 inch circle with 6 indentations to hold the snail shells upright. Cook for 10-12 minutes; when hot and bubbly, transfer to a serving plate and voila, they are ready to eat! In all methods use a baking pan as an under-liner to prevent the butter from spilling on the oven bottom and maybe causing a fire. The finished dish should be served very hot, and sprinkled with a teaspoon of chopped chives for every 6 snails. Serve with warm baguettes to sop up the juices and butter.