This easy escargots recipe is a traditional Greek snail risotto with tomato sauce. The taste is very similar to a mussel risotto! Read more for all the information you need about how to clean, prepare and cook fresh snails.
A lot of people (including my brother) can’t stand the idea of eating snails, but others (like me) consider them to be a delicacy. This escargot recipe is a traditional Greek (mostly Cretan) way of preparing snails and a classic example of how the Mediterranean cuisine uses every ingredient available to create tasty dishes.
Though some times bulgur is used, I like to use rice and make this recipe into a risotto because I find that the rice has a more neutral taste and lets the rest of the other ingredients shine. Others will disagree and say that the bulgur gives a unique, earthy flavor to the dish. If you choose to use bulgur the procedure is the same, but cooking times may be different.
In Crete we call snails as "hohlious" from the ancient Greek word "kochlias" which means spiral. If you found this post after searching online for "escargot recipes" or "snail recipes" or "kochlias recipes" then I guess you already know where to find snails.
If you’re lucky enough you can buy them from your local market (or maybe a nearby deli?) and if you’re luckier you probably live in a place surrounded by nature where you can just go for a walk and collect them for yourself. For the US, I’ve found an escargot site where you can buy them fresh (this is not an affiliate link).
How to collect escargots (snails) from the wild
Before anything else, please check with your local wildlife agency to make sure the snails in your area are not endangered. There are two ways in which you can collect escargots in the wild:
- Collect them from the ground when it starts to rain
- Search for them in cavities and trees when the weather is dry and they are closed inside their shells
When it starts to rain, the snails come out of their shells and start crawling around looking for food. Many people wear their raincoats and head out in the nature collecting the snails that are crawling on the ground and the leaves.
After you collect them and because you don’t know what they have eaten, you have to keep them inside a basket with holes (for the air to circulate) and give them some pasta or flour to eat. When the snails finish eating the pasta they will poop and close themselves inside their shells (something like a hibernation). Then they are ready to be consumed. The whole procedure takes one or two days.
When the weather is dry (probably spring or summer) the escargots will be closed inside their shells and they will also be hidden inside tree cavities and under rocks.
Since they are closed, they have already pooped so they are considered clean and ready to be consumed. All you have to do is to collect them and bring them home with you.
How to prepare fresh Escargots
- First, let them soak in a bowl filled with water and rinse them very well
- Use a rough sponge to clean the shells from the dirt.
- Using a short knife, remove the hard membrane that’s attached to their shell (if you soak them for a long time the membrane will come off much easier)
- Fill a pot with water and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Bring to a boil and throw the snails into the pot. Cook for 2 minutes, drain and rinse very well. Wine vinegar is used because it eliminates any bad smells the snails may have.
At this point you can cook the snails according to the recipe or you can freeze them for future use.
How to cook canned escargots
The taste of canned escargots will not be exactly the same as the fresh. If you can find frozen ones, then they're probably the next best thing. If you can only find canned ones, rinse them well and use them as your recipe suggests.
How to serve and eat this recipe
For this dish you will need a fork with thin teeth. If you bend the one tooth of the fork slightly towards the inside, it will be easier to pierce the snail. Pierce the snail with the tooth of the fork and gently pull it outwards.
If you notice that the snail is cut through the middle when you try to get it out, you will have to break top part of the spiral of the shell, just to loosen up the snail inside. Usually the end oft he snail is nor eaten because it is bitter, Just cut it with the fork.
Escargots recipe (Greek snail risotto)
- 300 grams escargots weighed with the shells or about 20-30 medium-sized snails
- 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
- half red onion finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and freshly grated pepper to taste
- 1 cup pureed tomatoes
- 1 cup risotto rice such as Arborio, Carolina, Carnaroli
- 2.5 cups water
- Prepare the escargots: Rinse very well and soak in a bowl filled with fresh water for 5 minutes. Clean with a sponge and remove the membranes with the tip of a knife.
- Bring a pot filled with water and 2 Tablespoons wine vinegar to a boil. Transfer the snails to the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse very well until the escargots are very clean.
- Make the risotto: Transfer the olive oil and the onion to a pot and saute over high heat for 2 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the escargots and stir for 2 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, the bay leaf, the salt and the freshly grated black pepper. Add enough water (if needed) to almost cover the escargots and bring to a boil. Cover with the lid, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes (halfway through cooking check the pot and add a splash of water if necessary).
- Remove the escargots with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a plate. Add the water and the rice to the tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with the lid and cook for 10 minutes. Add the escargots, stir gently and continue cooking covered for another 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the food rest in the pot for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce is absorbed by the rice.Serve immediately and eat!
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