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.
Happy French Friday! See you in April!
Last week, Howard and I took a brief tropical interlude from winter, visiting our parents in South Florida. When we returned mid-week, the snow piles were noticeably smaller, but Old Man Winter has made it clear that even today, on the first day of spring, he’s not quite ready to give up his grip on cold weather. It’s been downright cold with a dusting of snow expected later today.
Fortunately, this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie was the perfect antidote to days of the typical vacation diet (too much) and readjusting to cold temperatures. Côte d’Azur Cure-All Soup reminded me of the “stone soup” story. Who would think that a head of garlic and some herbs simmered in water would be something good to eat? Though the ingredients didn’t seem promising, this is truly a recipe for making something from practically nothing.
You start by slicing an entire head of garlic into thin slices. This step was tedious, but not terrible. Oh, was I ever missing the never-used mini-garlic mandoline that I discarded in my last kitchen drawer purge… You really never know when you’ll need something. I wish I’d put in the box with the spaetzle press that turned out to be so useful, rather than the Goodwill bag.
The slivered garlic, a bouquet garni of thyme and sage sprigs and some bay leaves, and some salt are simmered in water for half an hour. I was surprised by how much flavor the resulting broth had. It definitely tasted of garlic, but mellow with no residual sharpness or bitterness.
Dorie gives the option to puree or not to puree. (I chose not to puree which is said to be more traditional.) To finish the soup, egg yolks are whisked with grated Parmesan cheese. (More egg whites to use, getting tired of croquants!) Then the cheesy blob is tempered with some warm soup before whisking it back into the broth.
I wasn’t sure what would end up in the pot with the various warnings and caveats in the recipe. The egg yolks were meant to thicken the soup. The warm soup mixed with the egg mixture was meant to prevent curdling. I was imagining something between Chinese egg drop soup and Greek Avgolemono soup. When the egg and cheese mixture was mixed back in, the soup became opaque and a pale lemony yellow. It remained smooth and thickened only slightly. I could have added more egg yolks to make it thicker, but I decided not to.
I drizzled some olive oil from Provence on each bowl and served this as a starter before a quick version of cassoulet for our first post-vacation home-cooked meal, one with a French twist.
The soup was light and flavorful. Even though it was good, I’m not sure I’d make it again. I’d be more likely to try the imagined egg drop or Avgolemono soup, neither of which I’ve made before.