Naughty Snails—Escargots with Pernod Butter

July 12, 2009

In philosophy, if you aren’t moving at a snail’s pace you aren’t moving at all.
~Iris Murdoch

The Tour has re-entered French soil, so an escargot recipe seemed timely.

Snails are classified into a large group of animals of the phylum Mollusca. Escargot is a dish of cooked land snails, usually the edible species Helix pomatia and Helix aspersa, as some varieties are inedible, even toxic to humans. Snails are far from an upper crust French aliment de luxe. Rather, these helix shelled critters have long been a culinary custom among poorer populations throughout the Mediterranean basin.

Snails are curious reproductive creatures with rather voracious sexual appetites. Land snails are hermaphrodites, but even though they have both male and female reproductive organs, they do not possess the ability to self reproduce. In a sublimely pliant way, they can assume male or female roles in mating and reproduction, as circumstances dictate, even fulfilling both sexual roles simultaneously. Can you almost hear Barry White crooning in the background? Oh, oh, baby, baby, baby

Snails court from 15 minutes to six hours by circling each other, touching with tentacles, and biting on the lips and genitals. These snails consummate their mating ritual by “puncturing” their partners with a calcified “love dart.” Just before mating, hydraulic pressure builds up in the blood sinus surrounding the organ housing the dart, and when the amorous mate touches the darter’s genitals, it fires away. The receiving snail responds by firing its own dart, and the snails simultaneously mate.

Mutual copulation? A perplexing conundrum for the Family Research Council, sending them all atwitter?…OMG, as in the big “G!” But, isn’t it always do unto others as they do unto you?


16 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 bunch fresh parsley leaves
2 T shallots, peeled and roughly chopped

6 T unsalted butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C Pernod
1/2 T sea salt
1/2 T freshly ground black pepper

24 escargots
Escargot shells

2-3 C sea salt (to stabilize shells)

Baguette slices

Preheat oven to 450 F

Place the garlic, parsley and shallots in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the butter, olive oil, Pernod, salt, and pepper and pulse until smooth. Scrape the mixture into a bowl.

Put a dollop of Pernod butter in each snail shell. Stuff a snail into each shell and then evenly top snails with remaining butter. Spread sea salt in a shallow baking dish and nestle shells, butter sides up, in salt. (Alternatively, should you be so fortunate to have them, place snails into escargot dishes.)

Bake in oven until bubbly, about 4-6 minutes. Serve immediately with crusty fresh bread for sopping up the unctuous escargot butter.


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