Escargot. What are the words that come to your mind when I throw that word out there? Snails, fancy, French, expensive, slimy, gross, delicious, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman “slippery little suckers,” anything else? Well, in some ways, nearly all of these can be true, but not all the time.
Escargot aren’t nearly as difficult to make at home as you might think. Here are a few tips on how to make escargot!
It is TRUE that escargot are indeed land snails, which for some odd reason turns people off from the get-go.
A snail is a mollusk and therefore hails from the same family as scallops, clams, mussels, oysters and technically octopuses and squid, even though they don’t have the shell we think of with the rest of these sea creatures. It also goes to say that snails like water and humidity, but are land dwellers.
Which reminds me of a story of me at a young age. I was visiting my grandmother in the Bay area of California and after a light rain, her front steps were covered in snails.
At that age, I thought they would die without water, so I heroically transferred every snail I could find from the front of her home to the powder room sink. I few hours later someone accidentally checked on my little friends and, well, you can imagine what happened then.
Let’s just say they escaped from my warm water bath.
Let’s continue with a few more myths, first being that they are expensive. At fancy restaurants, yes.
Five snails, swimming in butter, garlic and parsley will run you about $15+. Hold on, because I am about to blow your mind: a can of giant escargot, 12 count, only costs $8. *Wait* Did you say CAN???
Why, yes, I did. Most escargot don’t come packaged like the rest of our mollusk friends.Have you ever seen them in the seafood case?
The reason being that they are extremely challenging and time consuming to remove from their shells. The entire in-shell process includes rinsing them several times and allowing “clean” substances, such as dill, to run through their systems to remove any debris or dirt, followed by a quick hot bath (much like preparing crabs or lobster) before finally prying from the shell and removing the hepatho-pancreas (digestive glands).
Therefore, the majority of your restaurants will be purchasing the beloved appetizer in a can too, which is a 71% markup. How do they get away with it?
Consumers perceive the preparation of escargot to be difficult and time consuming and the truth is, it is neither of those things (if you let someone else do the cleaning and removal).
So here are some pointers on how to make escargot:
- Like many other protein sources, the flavor and texture will vary from species to species. The most popular edible snail is the helix, which comes in a variety of sizes, similar to shrimp: large, extra large and jumbo/giant.
- Escargot many have fancy names, but are simple concepts: Escargot Vol-Au-Vent (Escargot in Puff Pastry) and Escargots a la Bourguignonne (Escargot with Herbed Butter) aren’t really that intimidating after you translate them.
- Escargot do not have to be served in-shell. You can prepare Escargot Buns, Escargot Vol-Au-Vent or Pesto and Tomato Escargot.
- Because they are packaged in a can and without a shell, you can purchase your empty shells separately. Rinse them well before using and know that if washed well again (I boil mine), they can be reused.
- Most of the preparation can be done ahead of time and since snails come pre-cooked, they only take a few minutes in the oven before they are ready to eat!