Monthly Archives: March 2017

Snail Butter! {CtBF}

My first memory of the concept of “snails as food” is the image of a plastic tube of giant snail shells with a tiny can at the bottom that my mother kept in our pantry of my childhood home. (See the tiny picture at the right.) I’m not sure where it came from, but most likely, it was a souvenir, either brought home by my parents from a trip or bestowed on them by travelling friends.  To the best of my knowledge, no one ever ate the snails inside the can, but the tube sat there year after year.

Fast forward to adulthood.  I know I’ve eaten snails once or twice in French restaurants, but I couldn’t tell you where or when.  What I can tell you is that the most memorable thing about them is the delicious garlic butter that is the essence of escargot.  Sure, the butter coats the chewy snails and makes them marginally appealing.  However, sopping up any remaining butter with fresh bread is the main event.

The name of this week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays, Green Beans in Snail Butter, was filled with intrigue for me.  Based on the title alone, I assumed that snails would be incorporated into some sort of compound butter to be served over the green beans.  Fussy and complicated on the face of it.  In reality, the recipe is so much simpler.  What we’re actually making is that amazing butter the snails are traditionally served in.  Instead of providing a bath for snails, green vegetables are immersed instead.

Desperate for spring, I had picked up asparagus earlier in the week.  I decided to go with what I had on hand.  I cut the asparagus spears into green bean length pieces and steamed them.

I also discovered that all the heads of garlic I had were spoiled.  I had some minced garlic from Penzey’s that I had picked up when I had a coupon for a free jar.  I used this instead. I found that the freeze-dried pieces added a subtle texture, and the garlic seemed to resist the urge to burn that often happens when I freshly minced garlic.

Minced garlic sautéed in butter with a generous amount of freshly chopped parsley is about all there is to it before seasoning with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.  I tossed the asparagus in the fragrant butter and Voila!

I will definitely make Snail Butter again when I feel like dressing up green vegetables or maybe fish or seafood.  I count this recipe as yet another winner.

The asparagus in snail butter was the perfect side for the New York Times’ Roasted Provencal Chicken.

You can find the recipe here on Serious Eats or on page 222 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  If you haven’t picked up a copy of this book, I highly recommend it.  There are so many delicious recipes that I’ve added to my repertoire.  To see what my blogging friends thought of snail butter, check their links here on the Cook the Book Fridays website.

Bonus note: Last night, I saw my friend Lisa of Hawley’s Food Path at our garden club’s meeting.  We made beaded dragonfly garden ornaments.  Here’s a picture of Lisa and me with our finished projects.

Lisa (right) and Me (left) with our dragonfly ornaments.

Happy French Friday!  See you in April!

 

 

Fun with Shrubs

This is the third month of the food preservation Mastery Challenge hosted by Marisa McClellan at Food in JarsMarch’s challenge is a choice of Jellies and/or Shrubs.  Always one to try something new, I decided to explore shrubs.

What’s a shrub, you might ask?  At least, what is it when we’re not talking about the woody plants growing around the foundation of your house?  Shrub is sometimes known as drinking vinegar.  It’s a sweet and tart syrup made with fruit, sugar, and vinegar.  Other herbs, spices or aromatics can also be added.  Typically, a shrub is added to seltzer water for a refreshing drink or, with some added alcohol, a cocktail.

I like getting familiar with a new way to preserve fruit that’s an alternative to jellies and jams.

The first shrub I made was Pomegranate Shrub.  I had half a bottle of Pom pomegranate juice in the fridge, so I tried one-third of a batch of this recipe from Punch Drunk. It was super simple.  All you need to do is combine juice, sugar, and vinegar.  I heated the vinegar first to accelerate the dissolving of the sugar, then added the juice.  Pomegranate is tart to begin with, so the vinegar enhanced the tartness, which was toned down by the sugar.

My second attempt was a bit more experimental.  I started with strawberries I had frozen after a summer berry picking outing.  After reading about the different processes, I opted to start with the hot method, where the fruit is infused in simple syrup to extract its juice. I added slightly thawed berries along with some crushed peppercorns to a warm simple syrup and simmered it.  Then, I strained out the fruit and added vinegar and some vanilla extract for good measure.  This Strawberry-Vanilla-Peppercorn Shrub reminded me of summer.  The berry flavor was pronounced, the vinegar added some tang, and the other flavors gave it some mystique.

Shrubs are a worthwhile discovery!  Both shrubs were delicious added to seltzer. I still have to try adding this to cocktails.

After I’ve gone overboard picking fruit this summer, I’m also interested in trying the cold method for making shrubs where fruit is simply tossed with sugar to draw out its juice before adding the vinegar.

Strawberry-Vanilla-Peppercorn Shrub
Makes a little more than a cup

½ pound strawberries (unsweetened frozen OK)
½ cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp black peppercorns, crushed
6 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the water in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve completely.  (If you already have simple syrup on hand, gently heat ¾ cup simple syrup in the medium saucepan instead of dissolving sugar in water.)  Add the strawberries and crushed peppercorns, and bring to a light simmer.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until the syrup is a rich color and the strawberries are soft.  Let the fruit cool in the syrup until lukewarm.

Strain the berries from the syrup.  (No need to discard the strained berries.  Stir it into yogurt for breakfast or a snack.)  Stir the vinegar and vanilla into the syrup.  Transfer to a bottle.  Store in the refrigerator.