Snails with Herb and Walnut Butter

Snails...

Snails…

I have to admit I felt a bit uneasy about the appearance of Snails on Gabriel Gaté’s Taste le Tour menu for 2013.  Where was I going to find a taste tester for this one?  No takers in my house…

But I guess before we worry about eating them, the first question I am sure you’re asking, is where on earth did I find some snails?  Did I just raid the letter box?  Or look under a few upturned pot plants?  The answer, luckily is no.  I picked these little babies up at the local gourmet supermarket (Leo’s Supermarket for the Melbournians).  They come conveniently shelled and in cans which is perfect for this recipe.  I did try to source some fresh ones, but apparently they are out of season at the moment (although someone should tell that to the family of snails hanging out in my letter box…).

Just a word of caution though, please don’t raid your backyard for a pail of snails (just in case you are that way inclined).  For health and safety reasons commercial snails are put through a purging process to clean their digestive systems of any garden debris before being offered for sale or prepared for consumption.  Snails fresh from your backyard may not be safe to eat.

So, as I was chopping up my ingredients and going a little knife crazy, I got to wondering why the French decided that this slimy little creature would be a good thing to eat.  I have to say that I am still in the dark on this.  I know that snails have been on the menu in France (then known as Gaul) since the early Roman occupation about 2,000 years ago, however how this little grey blob got a reputation as delicacy is beyond me.

But while I am not game enough to try them myself, I am going to reserve judgement and do my best to plate up my best version of Gabriel’s Snail with Herb and Walnut Butter and serve it up to my two guest eaters for this evening, James and Nicola.  Thank you for doing the escargot honours!  Here goes …

Ingredients

  • 150 g (5 oz) softened butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 80 g (3 oz) walnut flesh, finely chopped
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 48 drained, cooked snails
  • 600 g baby spinach leaves, washed
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) pouring (thin) cream
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) breadcrumbs

How to do it

Chop, chop...

Chop, chop…

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius and then once again, it’s time to get your chop on, break out the knives and go crazy.  FInely dice the shallot, and the garlic.  Roughly chop the walnut meat (I liked the idea of some extra texture) and finely chop the parsley.  Place all of these in a bowl with the softened butter, lemon juice and salt and pepper ad mix together well. ……………………………………..

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Squashed and flattened

Squashed and flattened

Place the ball of butter mixture between two sheets of clingwrap and roll out with a rolling-pin to a thickness of about 5mm.  Place this flattened disk in the fridge or freezer to chill while you get on with the rest of the recipe.

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Bed of snails...

Bed of snails…

While the butter mix is chilling, crack open your can of snails and rinse and drain well in a colander.  Wash the spinach and place in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and cover.  Gently wilt the spinach and when just wilted stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper.  When warmed through, take this off the heat and share the cream and spinach mix between  your ramekins (2 large or 4 small).  Place your washed and drained snails on top of the spinach/cream mix.  I had 18 snails so I shared these across three small ramekins (6 snails each as an entrée serve).

Herb and Walnut Butter bricks...

Herb and Walnut Butter bricks…

Bring your chilled and hardened butter mix out of the fridge and cut into pieces that you can use to cover the snails in your ramekins.  For my dishes, I cut neat little square shapes.  Place the butter in a layer over the snails.  .………

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Escargot ...with Herb and Walnut Butter

Escargot …with Herb and Walnut Butter

Finally, top each ramekin with a layer of fresh bread crumbs, and you are ready for the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes until golden and the snails are warmed though.

Enjoy and look out for the butter and cream induced crise de foie (liver attack!)!

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