How to Cook Escargot in the Shell

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Similar to how chickens need to be plucked before you call them poulets, and fish need to be cleaned before you call them poissons, snails need a makeover before you call them escargot. Maybe it's the washing, soaking, shelling and parboiling, but turning fresh garden snails into escargot a la Bourguignon -- or snails prepared in the style of Burgundy, France, where it all began -- feels like something akin to alchemy. And whether they're from Burgundy or your local grocery store, preparing escargot in the shell makes you feel like a world-class chef.

Preparing Fresh Snails

Step 1

Use a sharp knife to cut away the membrane covering the openings of the shells, if you're using fresh snails. Cover the snails in about 3 inches of cold water mixed with 1/4 cup of salt for every 25 to 30 snails.

Step 2

Soak the snails for about 4 hours, changing the water and rinsing the shells when you see greenish mucus or white froth building up on the surface. Discard any snails that float.

Step 3

Boil the snails in fresh water for about 10 minutes, skimming the froth from the water as it appears, and transfer them to a bowl filled with ice water.

Step 4

Pick the snails out of the shell using a skewer and trim off the intestine, the greenish-black protrusion attached to the bodies. Rinse the snails in a colander under cool running water and place them in a shallow dish lined with cornmeal.

Step 5

Rub the snails between your palms and fingers with cornmeal to remove the last vestiges of mucus.

Step 6

Rinse the shells under cool running water while rubbing your fingers over them to clean them and allow them to air dry.

Step 7

Fill a pot with lightly salted water and simmer the snails until tender, about 1 hour for small snails and 2 hours for meaty snails. Rinse the snails under cold running water and place them on a towel to drain and dry.

Turn Up the Heat

Step 1

Rinse the brine from canned snails, if you are using them, with running water and set aside.

Step 2

Make a compound butter by combining room-temperature butter with aromatics and herbs. Escargot prepared in the style of Burgundy uses compound butter made of freshly chopped parsley, a drizzle of white wine, minced shallots, minced garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, but you can use any herbs you like. Place the butter in a bowl and let it firm up in the refrigerator.

Step 3

Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour about 1 inch of salt or dry beans in a shallow baking dish. The salt or beans will hold the shells with the opening pointing upwards so the butter won't spill during cooking.

Step 4

Insert the snails into their shells. Scoop a spoonful of cold compound butter into the shell openings and position the shells opening-side-up in the salt or beans.

Step 5

Roast the snails until sizzling, about 5 or 6 minutes. Remove the dish and serve the escargot on an escargot tray with escargot tongs and forks.

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