Snails: they may not be on the top of your list of favorite snacks, but with dishes like Escargot booming in popularity, more of us than ever are coming to love this common delicacy.
We get it – the thought of eating snails isn’t particularly appealing.
However, if you’ve never tried Escargot before, you may be pleasantly surprised by this curious dish.
So, what exactly goes into this common European delicacy, and should you try it? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Escargot?
Escargot is the French word for snail.
These small snail dishes are a common delicacy in France and other European countries such as Spain and Portugal, but you’ll be less likely to find them served outside of Europe, such as in Britain and America.
If you do find Escargot outside of Europe, it’ll usually be served at an exclusively French restaurant, but not always.
Snails, or Escargot, also have a pretty admirable nutritional content (depending on how you cook them).
Escargots are high in protein and low in fat, making them a pretty healthy meal choice compared to your deep-fried, greasy meat.
However, it’s worth pointing out that not all snails are edible. In fact, only a small selection of land snails are – so, the next time you see one in your garden, please don’t take it straight to the boil.
You’ll probably end up feeling very sick, so leave it to the experts.
Although the thought of eating snails may make your skin crawl, people have been eating them for around 30,000 years. In reality, it’s no different from tucking into a helping of chicken or pig.
The History Of Escargot
Snails have been eaten for millennia and were even well-loved by the Romans and were consumed as far back as the 6th century BCE by hunter-gatherers.
However, the origins of French escargot are somewhat unclear.
There are a few different stories behind the emergence of this well-loved European delicacy, and some say these snails were introduced to the country by Julius Caesar.
However, historians have noted that fossils of escargot could be found in Provence long before Julius Caesar thought of introducing them.
There’s also evidence to suggest that snails became a less popular delicacy during the Middle Ages.
Some say this is because the church started to consider them impure.
However, many monasteries used to have their very own snail farms (yes, really, they were called escargotieres!), where snails were ‘farmed’ to be consumed on Fridays.
Until 1966, Catholics were forbidden to eat meat on Fridays, making the snail a welcome and popular substitute.
Whatever the origins of escargot are, there’s no denying that this dish has become a world-famous delicacy. Some travelers even come to France JUST to try French escargot.
How To Eat Escargot
In most restaurants, especially French restaurants, Escargot is served as an appetizer.
True French escargot tends to be cooked in garlic butter and parsley, and most restaurants even have their own special pans to cook and serve snails in.
These pans are usually a saute pan with one side and up to twelve cavities for cooking.
Each snail is cooked in its own cavity.
However, some places don’t stick to this rule, and breaking the tradition won’t affect the taste of your snails.
Escargot can also be cooked in a simple saute pan with a helping of butter!
Sometimes, escargot is served inside its shell with a helping of bread to soak up the sauce. You may even find your escargot seasoned with a generous helping of extra herbs and cheese.
If you want to cook your own escargots, they can be bought in cans, often with the shells sold separately.
If you want to create your own shells, you can simply use any puff pastry you can find – it works well!
They may have a fancy name, but escargots are simple to cook and season, and they don’t require any special culinary talents.
In fact, escargot can be prepared and cooked in around half an hour, and its traditional seasonings (garlic, salt, parsley, and butter) and all cupboard staples – and inexpensive!
Fun Fact: Did you know that canned escargots are usually cooked in champagne and boiled in broth?
That’s right – canned escargots are always precooked (deliciously), saving you a few extra minutes in the kitchen.
Escargot Outside Of France
So far, we’ve discussed the traditional ways to cook and serve escargot in France.
As we know, though, this dish is served in other parts of the world, and some countries like to put their own spin on things.
In Spain, for example, escargot is called ‘caracoles,’ and they’re usually served as tapas in bars.
Here, you can expect to eat your snails with toothpicks, and they’ll usually be considerably smaller than the snails you’ll find in France.
Many countries also like to serve escargots with tomato sauce. Portugal, Italy and Croatia are big fans of this.
In other parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia, you may also find your escargots served with Asian herbs and coconut milk (Check out another Southeast Asian delicacy – The Jellyfish here).
Sometimes, a little lemongrass is thrown in for good measure!
Though the seasonings and sauces may vary, the taste is ALWAYS just as good.
Snails have proved themselves to be a pretty versatile and simple food to work with, hence why you’ll find so many variations of escargot throughout the world.
We get it – snails aren’t the most appealing of meals.
Your chicken salad, beef steak, or greasy burger may seem more appetizing, but as the saying goes: don’t knock it until you try it.
Your escargot will usually be prepared and served differently wherever you are in the world.
However, this is all part of the excitement of trying escargot for the first time – if you’re not keen on the traditional French method, perhaps the tinned tomatoes and bread will be more comforting!
Just remember: not all snails are edible. So, the next time you get a craving for escargot, leave it to the experts.