Post # 153 Snails

August 9, 2013 at 12:04 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 153 Snails

Snails?  Yep, that’s what you read.  I’m talking about snails today.  I never had snails when I was a kid, but I always sort of like the idea of snails.  I imagined them as a little rubbery and the reality wasn’t too far off the mark.  Like calamari, when fresh cooked, and done right, snails are heavenly.  When they cool off, or get overcooked, it’s like eating a pencil eraser.

I finally tried snails for the first time right around the time my ex-wife and I started dating.  I don’t remember if it was her first time trying snails or not, but we got them as appetizers.  They were served in a metal tray with small pockets.  Each pocket contained butter, garlic, and a single snail.  Mostly all we could taste was the butter and garlic and who wouldn’t like that?  We ate the slightly rubbery snails, and sopped up the butter and garlic with bits of bread.  Then we ate our steaks and salad and had a great meal.

snails

I decided that I like snails, and while I didn’t order them regularly, they did become part of my standard ordering repertoire.  Once, when our niece was very young, the family went out to dinner for some occasion.  She happened to be sitting next to me, and I ordered snails.  Or, as they were listed on the menu, escargots.  For those who don’t speak French, that’s pronounced S-CAR-GO.  When they were set in front of me, Niece looked at them and asked what they were.

“Those are snails.” I replied,  “They’re sautéed in butter and garlic.  It’s really good.  Want one?”

“Snails!  No way!”

“Yeah, they are,” I said.  I popped one in my mouth and said, “Mmmmmm!”

“They are not either!”  She was used to me teasing her and assumed this was one of those moments.

I shrugged.  “Ask your mother.”

She turned in her seat and said indignantly, “Mom!  Uncle Joe says he’s eating snails!”

“He is, sweetie.  They’re called escargot.  They’re very good.  I’m sure he’ll let you try one if you want to.”

Her resounding “Ewwwww!” deafened everyone at our table and the five or six tables around us.

Some of the best snails I ever had were in Paris.  Practically speaking, they weren’t snails at all.  I was invited to dinner by some friends who lived in the city.  We were having a leisurely dinner and wine fest to introduce me to “fine cooking and fine wine.”  Since I was from America, I obviously didn’t know about either.  For starters, they ordered for me a Snail Curl.  I was served a piece of bread that had been rolled into a rope then wound on itself to resemble a snail in its shell.  There was a light brown sauce on top.  I tore off a small piece and was rewarded with one of the most savory bites I’ve ever had.  They had blended snails, butter, and garlic into a paste, then added that paste to a medium white sauce which then thickened and became delectable.  No lumps, just hearty flavor.

Years later, I was working in Korea.  Because the client base was very large, the team was very large.  I was leading the effort and trying to come up with a game plan.  We had to switch out over 150 computers, and train nearly 80 end users.  I had to split the effort into two segments, hardware and training.  I wasn’t going to be able to oversee each section effectively, so I had two people who were going to act as sub-managers for me.  Because we were all so busy, it was difficult getting time during the work day to do paperwork and develop strategy, etc.  The hotel we were staying at had put us in the Executive level, which gave us access to the Executive Lounge.  Starting at 5pm, they served alcohol and appetizers, and made their executive feel at home.  Some of the locals would come to the lounge in their lounging robes and slippers.  Since I’m a fairly light eater, the appetizers would do for my dinner, as long as I made sure I had a good lunch.

I told my entire team that every work day, from 6 to 8, I would be in the lounge at a certain table working, and they were all free to come over and talk about anything at all they wanted to talk about.  It was a good opportunity to get paperwork done, air difficulties they were having, anything else they wanted to say.  I would drink a couple of glasses of wine, eat a few appetizers, and usually head back to my room about 9.  I don’t recall what appetizers they had the first night, but the second night they had snails in rich, savory sauce.  I had some with some bread.  I must have said something like “Oh, my favorite!” so they could hear.  They had the snails at least three times a week for the whole time we were there.  I got so sick of snails, that by the end of the seven weeks, I couldn’t look a snail in the eye for no amount of money.

All this snail talk reminded me of an old joke.  Back a few decades ago, a bunch of snails were standing around talking.  They were bored and trying to think of something to do.  One of them finally challenged another to a race.  The details were quickly drawn up and the two snails took off running as fast as they could.  They had such a good time that they repeated it the next day, and over time it developed into a whole new snail industry.  Eventually, the Snail Races got so popular that it was the number one thought on everyone’s mind was which snail would win today?  It got a little confusing on the betting side, however, since one snail looks pretty much like any other snail.  They solved the problem by painting the letters of the alphabet on the side of the shell, starting with A and going on through.  Things progressed with some snails winning several races then retiring.  Suddenly, one snail rose above all the other snails.  He was the fastest, leanest snail to appear on the racing circuit.  The cloud of dust he raised behind him as he raced put all other snails to shame.  The snail became so famous that a cry went up as soon as he started to race:  Look at that S car go!

Sorry about that.  It always made me laugh when I was a kid.

Oh, who am I kidding?  It makes me laugh now.  And I’m not sorry.

Snails Provençale

  • 1/2 pound snails out of the shell (Partner/Spouse made me swear to tell you that if you don’t like the idea of snails, or snails aren’t readily available in your store, chicken breast cut into small pieces can be substituted in the recipe.)
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large shallot, finely minced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Melt butter in a medium skillet.  Add garlic and shallot and sauté for about a minute.  Add snails, parsley, chives, and tomatoes and simmer for 2 minutes.  Take off heat and stir in sour cream.  Serve hot with toasted bread.

Enjoy!  Let me know how it turned out for you.

 

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