Escargot, if you don’t already know this, boys and girls, is French for snail. Many of the best restaurants offer escargots on their menus. They’re delicious!
I know one little girl who ordered escargots whenever she had a chance, which was most often when we were traveling in Quebec or France. She liked her snails with lots of garlic butter, washed down with chocolate milk. Servers shook their heads in wonder when she placed her order.
Although snails may not be de rigeur in English Canada or the US, the French eat 40,000 tonnes of them a year. Restaurants internationally serve about 1 billion snails annually.
Without the butter, snail meat is a nutritional powerhouse. In fact, snail pie is considered an option to combat hunger in Africa. It is high in protein, low in fat (mainly polyunsaturated, the good kind), and a source of 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. All this means snail meat is a healthy alternative food. Cool!
People have been eating snails 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. I wonder if his snails ever tried chocolate milk? Maybe we are on to something!
My recipe is a little easier, inspired by Escargot Passion. We use escargots cleaned, previously cooked in bouillon, and sold in a can. All the difficult food processing has been done for us. We just have to dress them up, heat them rapidly in the oven for a few minutes, and serve. We’ve lowered the butter content in the interests of better health but kept that great garlic flavor.
Escargots with goat cheese stuffing
Makes enough for 48 snails, previously cooked in court bouillon or according to the directions on the can
(eight servings of six escargots each)
- 200 grams goat cheese (or Greek feta )
- 50 grams butter
- 2 cloves 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
- glasses of chocolate milk or a rich, buttery Chardonnay – optional 🙂
- Knead the ingredients together to make 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 smooth the opening 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 cheese.
- 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: If you’re really interested in preparing your own live snails for this feast, read these instructions for finding, cleaning and cooking snails from your own garden. You have 116 edible species to choose from.
If you are a snail fan, you’ll love this twist on the usual presentation. If you are squeamish but adventurous in your eating, I dare you to try this recipe. Snails are what little boys are made of … so they can’t be that bad.