If there was ever a moment of ill-preparedness, this was it.
Johanna Silver, test garden coordinator-extraordinaire, told
me that I needed to cook the escargots TODAY, because they were on the verge of
kicking the snail bucket, so to speak.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. I was up to my elbows
in recipe testing for the magazine and I couldn’t possibly cook them. I hadn’t
had time to research the books. I didn’t even know if we had parsley.
But I had no choice. We had been torturing and fattening
these little guys for days now, and it was only respectful that we follow
through with the project as intended. The alternative would be wasteful, not to
mention downright cruel.
I did the quick Internet search and found a few recipes
that, as I had hoped, called for butter, garlic, and parsley. But they
mentioned packing the shells and then putting the snails back into them. Huh?
How was I suppose to get them out, let alone back in? Why didn’t it mention how
long to cook them?
Never mind, I thought to myself. It can’t be rocket science.
I’m an accomplished cook, and I just don’t have any other options.
I melted about 4 tbsp. of unsalted butter in a large skillet
and then tossed in our snails and a minced garlic clove. I cooked them for
about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, then finished with chopped fresh
parsley and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Voilà.
We called in the official tasters (whoever was willing and
Due to our professionalism and total respect for our food
editor, Margo True, we waited for her to have the first taste. (Okay, so we
were all too scared to take the first bite and made her do it, but hey, what do
you expect? We may be adventurous, but we’re not completely nuts, as evidenced
by Elizabeth’s doubtful expression.) Margo popped the end of her toothpick into
her mouth, gave a few chews and then proclaimed with a wrinkled nose: “It’s
EEEWWWW! I decided that these were not an item that should
be served medium rare. Back into the pan they went for a thorough cooking over
high heat. About 10 minutes later, now with the butter and herbs both very brown, we gave it another go.
“Oh, that’s much better,” said Ms. True. Then Elizabeth and
Johanna had a taste. Not bad. Kind of chewy, but not tough. Overall, not
disgusting and definitely resembling the stuff you get for $24 at a fancy
French place in the city. My taste was fine, but I knew I could do much better than this on the execution.
Next: cooking escargot part deux. Just as soon as I locate our copy of Escoffier.