On Friday I went out for dinner and snails were on the menu. Now I’ve heard about ‘escargot’ on French menus but never seen Lamache All’aglio (snails in garlic butter) on an Italian menu before.
I had all kinds of preconceptions about what to expect from the experience of eating snails and pretty much none of them were positive. Having been wrong about this kind of thing in the past, I thought I’d give them a go.
The reality was so far from what I imagined that I was astounded! I was assuming they were going to be slimey or sludgey inside and not particularly tasty. I received six on a plate with some sprung tongs and a tiny fork, and they were still in their shell with some garlic and herb butter plugging the end. Now I love garlic but do have an issue with the texture of certain foods which was my main fear about the snails.
Enough rambling though. They were excellent, and I wouldn’t hesitate to have them again if I saw them on the menu. They were similar in texture to seafood, but obviously without the fishy hint. Meaty, but not fibrous like steak or pork. I think the nearest meat they reminded me of were scallops.
I’d definitely recommend giving them ago if you see them available as they don’t deserve the stigma that seems to surround them.
Looking further into this, as I quite fancy cooking some myself, the ones I ate were probably Helix pomatia. Bizarrely, these appear to be a protected species in England but conveniently for me, not in Wales. I can only assume French restaurants in England do not serve this species. The common garden snail Helix aspersa also appears to be edible, so I may well be giving them a go too. Looking around the web, information varies on which is the most popular or tasty, so in the name of science I’m going to give both a go. I think they hibernate in the winter so it won’t be just yet.
From what I can gather you just need to starve them for a few days, or feed them something safe for humans (carrot has been suggested) to flush through any potential toxins. I’ve looked at quite a few sources about eating snails and they seem to vary on the preparation techniques, so I assume I probably won’t go too wrong with whichever method I choose. Check back for news on how it went!