Escargot, if you don’t already know this, kiddies, is French for snail. And that’s right, people eat them. In fact, many of best restaurants offer snails at high prices.
I personally knew one little girl who ordered escargots whenever she saw them on the menu, usually while we were driving in Quebec, Canada’s French province. She liked her snails with chocolate milk.
Servers everywhere shook their heads in wonder when she placed her order. On one trip in particular she ate escargots so often we had to drive with the windows down. That’s because snails are most often served swimming in garlic butter. After a while, the air gets pretty rank.
The fact that we find escargots in Quebec is not a coincidence. The French eat 40,000 tonnes of snails each year. Most of these are served floating in hot melted butter. This method of cooking snails, however, undermines their nutritional goodness. Without the butter, snails are high in protein, low in fat.
In fact, snail pie is an option to combat hunger in Africa. Here’s why. Snail meat contains protein, fat (mainly polyunsaturated fatty acid, the good fat), iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, K and folate. It also contains the amino acids arginine and lysine at higher levels than in whole egg. Finally, it contains healthy essential fatty acids like linoleic and linolenic acids. The high-protein, low-fat content of snail meat makes it a healthy alternative food. How about that!
The things is: they’re ugly little critters!
But we should get over it and learn to love these nutritious power houses.
After all, snails have been eaten as food since at least ancient Roman times. Apicius, the author of the oldest surviving cookbook known (it dates from the time of Jesus), gives us a recipe for snails. He preferred his snails to be fattened up on milk and then lightly sautéed. Snails are wildly popular in many countries, if not so much in English Canada and the USA. Restaurants internationally serve about 1 billion snails annually.
But let’s lower the butter content a tad. Here’s a great recipe we can try, for example, from Escargot Passion. It’s not entirely butter-free, but it IS made with less butter than usual. It’s said to be very easy.
Low-fat escargots, with goat cheese stuffing
Here are the proportions for 48 snails, previously cooked in court bouillon. The recipe makes eight servings of six escargots each.
- 200 g of goat cheese ( or greek feta )
- 50 g of butter
- 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
- salt to taste
- optional – flavor with tarragon, anise, or crushed mustard seed. I used tarragon.
- 48 empty snail shells
- 8 oven-safe snail plates with places for 6 snails
- 8 snail forks
- 8 snail tongs (optional, if you’re handy enough with your fingers)
- Whole wheat baguette
How to prepare
- Knead the ingredients together until you have a smooth paste.
- In each empty shell, place a little of this paste. Then push a cooked escargot into the shell. Fill the remaining space in the shell completely and smoothly with the paste. Use 5 grams for each shell (a teaspoon). Arrange the snails six to a plate.
- Put the plates in the oven (200°C or 400°F) just long enough to melt the butter.
- Serve immediately. Be careful because the plates and snails are hot. Pick the snails out of their shells with a special little fork. Sop up the melted paste with pieces of the whole wheat baguette.
Tip: You can actually buy snails ready to go in cans and avoid the worst part of snail cooking – the cleaning of the live little critters. If you’re interested in this aspect of snail cuisine, see Escargot Passion in the last paragraph or read these instructions for finding, cleaning and cooking snails from your own garden.
So don’t be shy… go ahead and try this recipe. We all know snails are what little boys are made of (along with puppy dogs’ tails)… so they must be pretty good. The hardest part is finding the canned and cooked snails, but you can do it. Let me know how you like the recipe?