Elizabeth The Intern Cooks Snails

December 15, 2007 | By | COMMENTS

Please welcome back our beloved intern Elizabeth who has a story about snails.

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In recent weeks, I have become a Rose Levy Berenbaum disciple. The venerated Mrs. Berenbaum is the author of The Pie and Pastry Bible, and The Cake Bible among others. I’ve been working through some of the recipes (read: the ones with full-color photos) in The Pie and Pastry Bible.

Readers can rest assured that all my attempts with this book have been infinitely more successful than the sausage-and-polenta-stuffing disaster of several weeks ago. This new discipleship of Rose Levy has led to the creation of a roasted red pepper and poblano quiche, a cheddar-pastry crusted meatloaf, 3 apple pies, 1 pumpkin pie, and a chocolate-pecan tart. But everyone’s tired of pies right now. And The New York Times just declared the entrée dead. So we’re onto hors d’oeuvres.

I wrote above that “all my attempts” have been more successful than the stuffing was. All my attempts, that is, except this one.

Now, I have had snails before. My mother used to make them on special occasions when I was growing up. I think this was part of some kind of snails + doily = gourmet phenomenon. Of course, when I told my mother now that I was making snails, she said, “Not many people like snails.”

And when I told Nick I was making snails for our biweekly potluck, he whined, “But I was going to make risotto!”

“Well, you can make risotto and I’ll make snails,” I said.

“We can’t do that! We’re going to come in there with snails and risotto and everyone else is going to be bringing, like, Ritz crackers.”

So there were no snails for the potluck. Instead the burden of eating them fell upon me and my three roommates.

The Esteemed Rose Levy Berenbaum says that she always makes snail puffs as hors d’oeuvres at parties and everyone loves them. I’m not quite sure what circles she runs in, but I assumed she must be right. In retrospect, it is probably good that I didn’t bring these to the potluck, because I don’t think we would have been invited back.

The recipe is actually quite easy (see below), and I know I did it correctly, but I felt ill for hours afterwards. The canned snails were especially revolting to me because they looked like the pictures of aborted fetuses that pro-life advocates shove in your face.

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Of my 3 roommates, Chris ate one, but barely and that’s because he’s polite. Nick ate one, but barely, and that’s because he’s my boyfriend. I ate four, because I’m masochistic.

What happened that so befouled my dear escargot puffs? I really don’t know. I think the puffs themselves tasted faintly rancid even before I put the snails in. The parsley had been sitting in the fridge for a while, and that’s never a good thing . . . A bad egg? A bad can of snails? Or maybe just a bad recipe, since I followed RLB’s recipe like the OCD baker that I am. If you make them yourselves, please tell me whether my fridge or my cookbook stank, because I can’t quite bear the thought of making them again.

Needless to say, I will not be making these for my next party.

So if you should like to decipher why my puffs were bad, or, more likely, if you secretly revel in the idea of torturing your guests with a food that they can’t possibly dislike for fear of being perceived as declasse, thus follows the adapted recipe:

Ingredients:

Puffs:

1 cup water

½ cup infused olive oil

½ tsp sugar

1 cup all-purpose or bread flour

3 large eggs and 3 large egg whites

3 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped in salt

½ tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper

2. In a medium saucepan bring the water, oil and sugar to a boil

3. Remove from heat and add the flour all at once

4. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until dough forms a ball and leaves the side of the pan

5. Return pan to low heat and mash continuously for 3 minutes

6. Transfer dough to the food processor

7. Leaving feed tube open, process 15 seconds

8. Pour in the eggs all at once and process for 30 seconds; dough should be too soft to hold peaks. If it is not, add a small amount of water.

9. Add garlic and stir

10. Using a pastry sleeve or a tablespoon, pipe about 2 tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet spaced 1.5 inches apart

11. Bake for 30 minutes, checking often, until puffs are golden brown and firm enough to lift without collapsing

12. While the puffs are baking, begin on the snail butter

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Snails and Snail Butter:

1 can of 12 large Helix snails

4 tbs unsalted butter softened

1 small shallot

1 large clove garlic

Salt to taste

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, packed

5 drops or small pinch of hot sauce or cayenne

Tiny pinch nutmeg

Fresh ground white pepper to taste

1. When you have removed the puffs from the oven, raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees

2. Line a cookie sheet with foil

3. Smash the shallot and garlic, then sprinkle with salt and mince

4. Add parsley to garlic mixture and mince all together

5. Add parsley, garlic, shallot and other spices to a small bowl with the softened butter

6. Allow butter to soften until spreadable and then mix it

7. Cut off the top ¼ or so of each puff and reserve the tops

8. Place one snail in each puff

9. Add a dollop of the butter to the top of the snails

10. Bake in the oven for 3-5 minutes, until the butter is bubbling

11. Return tops to the puffs and serve at room temp, or refrigerate covered for up to 2 days

Oh, I should add that there were quite a few leftover puffs since we only used 12 snails and this recipe yields quite a few more. This morning we filled the leftover puffs with bacon, scrambled eggs, and cheese and put them in the broiler for about a minute and those were much better. Not like a New York deli bacon, egg and cheese, but better.

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  • Cary

    You have to rinse the canned snails. All restaurants use canned snails and you have to rinse them to get rid of their powerful canned odor. You can also cook them in some shallots, garlic, butter, brandy and ricard before putting them in the pastry.

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks Cary! I didn’t know that. No mention on the Helix can or in the recipe . . . Ah, well. This is why it’s the amateur gourmet, right?

  • Craig

    If you taste something rancid, that almost certainly points to a problem with your ingredients.

    On another note, I would be more conscientious about posting recipes under copyright without permission of the author/publisher. I did check the recipe and I can’t see that there was any adaption.

  • Sivan

    Well, even if they didn’t come out, you get points for trying. And your boyfriend must certainly love you a lot to eat a snail for you, I’m pretty sure mine would leave me before eating one.

  • http://www.realbakingwithrose.com Rose Levy Beranbaum

    first thank you for all your kind words elizabeth.

    second craig is right on both counts.

    third cary’s suggestion of rincing and cooking the snails is exactly what i do on page 525 of “the pie and pastry bible” though the quality of the snails i was using and the over-powering (in a good way) garlic butter made me think it wasn’t necessary for the puffs.

    fourth and final comment is that i was forced by my editor to put all acknowledgements in this book on page 678 where you will find the attribution for the recipe idea to my dear friend and esteemed colleague shirley o. corriher of “cookwise.

    oh and one thing more, not everyone likes snails even escargot. the texture is a bit rubbery, the flavor a little funky, and the idea perhaps more disturbing still. but coincidentally, during my morning swim, i started remembering how much i love the snail buns in “the bread bible.” they’re a savory version of sticky buns, slathered with snail butter before rolling up the dough and pieces of snail poked into the dough. this by the way was inspired by andré soltner formerly of lutèce–it’s an alsacion specialty.

    finally finally thank you for making me laugh out-loud at the description of how the snails looked!

    all the very best,

    rose

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks Sivan. Yes, I am lucky to have such a loving bf. After this, though, he did ask when I was going to go back to baking desserts. I can’t say I blame him.

  • Elizabeth

    Rose! Thank you so much for writing! I hope I wasn’t too critical of your recipe. I think it must have been my ingredients, because everything else in your cookbook has come out PERFECTLY and my friends keep begging me to make them pies, thanks to you. I’m glad I made you laugh and I’ll be sure to try the snail buns recipe. Thanks again for writing; you really made my day.