To the question : Why do French eat escargot? I’m always feeling cheeky enough to answer “because it tastes good”.
But let’s start with a little bit of history, eating snails all started sometime in the VIth century BC with the hunter-gatherers tribes living in what would become France, but snails first day of glory and fame happened when Talleyrand in 1814 wanted to impress the Tzar Alexander during his visit in Paris.
Talleyrand’s chef was asked to prepare a dish the Tzar had never tried before, this is when he decided to opt for a local (he came from Burgundy) preparation of the snails, with garlic, parsley and butter.
The Tzar was so impressed that from that day on he kept on requesting “Escargots de Bourgogne” on a regular basis.
So the escargots became a thought after meal often served for special occasions and more especially as a starter at Christmas.
Yet do not think for a second that you can reach your backyard after the rain, grab a handful of snails, stuff them with garlic butter and enjoy “Escargots”, not quite so, you are likely to end up at the hospital for food poisoning.
Preparation of “Escargot” is partly the justification of it’s price.
Here are the steps to get tasty and lovely “Escargot” for a meal :
- Snails are gauged (like oysters or shrimps) so depending on their size, they will end up in the preparation or be kept on the side till they reach the minimum size
- Snails are then removed from the shell and the shell is cleaned and pasteurized in boiling water
- The intestine part of the snails is chopped off and they are set to dry first
- The dried snails are then cooked into a broth to flavour the meat
- Once cooked they are stuffed back into the shell with “beurre d’escargot” *
- When purchased fresh you bake them in the oven for for 10/20 minutes at 215°F (Gas 1/4=)
- You enjoy them
(*) Beurre d’escargot is the butter preparation for the stuffing, here is the recipe for you to make your own : You will need 9oz of butter, 1oz of both shallots and parsley, 1/2oz of fresh garlic and a few pinches of pepper
When visiting Paris if you want to cook some by yourself and can recommend you “La Maison de l’Escargot” https://www.maison-escargot.com/ and if you just want to eat some “L’escargot Montorgueil” is the institution although may be a tad touristy https://escargotmontorgueil.com/
Due to an extensive harvesting of the snails in Burgundy, usage of too many pesticides for agriculture and because of the slow reproduction rate (1 egg laying per year) most of the snails are now coming from Poland, but restaurants and store named above get their products from Burgundy.
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