Mes Escargots

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So, I love snails. Shoot me. At least I think I love them. You could probably smother bits of shoe soles in a garlicky butter and parsley sauce, bake them, and serve them with good, crusty bread, and they would be good, too.

I was raised on snails, so they never scared me. Now, honestly, I don’t want to think about them really being snails because, well, snails are icky.

Recently I realized that I’ve never prepared my own L’escargots. And, it was about time to rectify this.

Funny anecdote: Right before we got married, my fiancé and I visited my mother, a couple of weeks before our elopement would occur.

My mother, being who she is, French, wanted to make my future husband happy, so for the first celebratory meal she prepared for us, it began with snails. And, he ate them. He ate other things, too. I guess he really loved me.

Photos below show two times I had l’escargots in France, in Avignon and Tourettes.

Here is a snail dish I had in Aix en Provence – snails on a salad. I’d always enjoyed l’escargots the traditional way, but this salad was superb.

To make snails the traditional way, you need snail shells, and you need snails. Fortunately one doesn’t have to forage in garden for either.

Escargots à la Bourguignonne
based on recipe in Saveur
makes 24

16 tablespoons butter
1/4 minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine
1 teaspoon cognac
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
24 extra-large snail shells
24 canned extra-large snails
Rock salt
Country bread

In a bowl, whisk together butter, parsley, wine, cognac, garlic, and shallots with a fork. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of butter mixture into each snail shell.

Push a snail into each shell; fill shells with remaining butter mixture.

Cover bottom of a baking dish with a layer of rock salt to stabilize the snail shells.

Arrange snail shells, butter side up, on the salt and bake until butter sizzles, about 10-12 minutes.

Serve hot with bread.

Alternatively, to prepare l’escargots, you don’t need snail shells, just ceramic dishes with round indentations.

Put a snail and the butter in each indentation, then bake the same way in a hot oven.

You’ll still need a little fork and good bread.


Snails are a wonderful excuse to eat bread soaked in a garlic parsley butter.

 

 

Sauce Vierge

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I’ve mentioned how I plan my personal meals around condiments, and I’m not exaggerating! In fact, a condiment will inspire a whole meal for me. I guess it’s no different than a BBQ lover who sees BBQ sauce and immediately wants brisket, beans, and cole slaw.

Basic condiments like home-made aioli, mustards and ketchups are wonderful, but so are romesco, chimichurri, charmoula, persillade, harissa, chutney, and confit. So many condiments, so little time!

Recently I came across another sauce – Sauce Vierge – that is almost like a marriage of a fresh tomato salsa and persillade, loosely speaking.

I discovered the sauce on Food 52. Sauce Vierge translates to virgin sauce, and was created in 1976 by Michel Guérard, “one of the forces behind the lighter, fresher nouvelle cuisine that sprang up in reaction to cuisine classique, dripping with all its hefty mother sauces.”

I got excited when I read about the sauce, which includes tomato, lemon juice, and fresh herbs, because it’s a perfect sauce to make in the summer. And it’s summer!

Sauce Vierge

4 ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 freshly squeezed lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of ground coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs

Peel and seed the tomatoes, then roughly chop and place in a medium bowl.


Add the oil, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and coriander.

Then add the fresh herbs. I used chives, basil, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary.

Cover the bowl, and leave to sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning, remove the cloves of garlic, and serve warm or room temperature.

To use the sauce, I grilled tilapia, and served the sauce at room temperature.

I wanted the sauce ingredients to really stand out.


I served the tilapia with boiled potatoes, on which I drizzled some of the herby oil. You can tell I’m not scared of a plate of olive oil!

In reality, is Sauce Vierge a condiment or a sauce? Where does a condiment start and end, and a sauce or paste begin?

My answer is “who cares?!!”

verdict: I will continue to make this sauce/condiment during summer months when I can get my hands on ripe tomatoes. It is exquisite. Over fish it was a great pairing, but I can see this on scallops, chicken, lamb, bread…

Note: Instead of using the ingredients at room temperature, you can alternatively mix the ingredients in a saucepan, and simmer the sauce slowly over low heat for 30 minutes.

Boneless Leg of Lamb

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Years ago, I remember telling a friend that I wanted to take a butchering class some time. She said, “you mean you want to learn how to kill chickens?”

I then clarified that I wanted nothing to do with animals outside of my kitchen, but I wanted to know what to do with them once they were in my kitchen.

The extent of my butchering has been trimming beef tenderloins. This came from too many times purchasing packaged filet mignons, which looked perfect underneath the stretched plastic wrap, but when I got them home they would fall into 2 or 3 pieces.

That’s when I started buying whole tenderloins and being in charge of cutting the filets myself. It’s less expensive, and nothing goes to waste.

When on Amazon.com looking though cookbooks a few years ago, I came upon what seemed like a perfect reference book for me. It’s called The Butcher’s Apprentice, by Aliza Green, published in 2012.

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This book was my dream come true. Pretty much anything you need to learn how to do with meat is in this book, along with step-by-step directions. Recently I decided to de-bone a leg of lamb using the book.

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I opened it up and immediately noticed that the photos are mirror images of what they should be. I would have imagined the photos be from the butcher’s perspective, maybe using a camera attached to the ceiling.

I tried laying the book on the floor upside-down, but the angle of the camera was off for me.

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There was also no labeling of the leg of lamb. Turns out mine didn’t have a pelvis attached. The parts about shanks and femurs and so forth were lost on me – I was mostly trying to match what the meat looked like in the photos.

Basically, I gave up on my “prized” book, and just removed the two bones that I found, some fat, and some of the fell.

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What was left was a mess, but I seasoned it with garlic pepper and salt. Check out my scimitar! My husband thought I’d perhaps joined the dark side when he spotted it.

Then I pushed it all together, and tied it up.

I placed halves of garlic cloves, from about 5-6 cloves, into holes I made in the meat using the point of a knife.

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I poured some olive oil in a large roasting pan and placed the lamb on the oil. Then I turned over the lamb, making sure it was covered with oil.

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After more garlic pepper and salt, I put the lamb in the oven that was preheated to 400 degrees.

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After 10 minutes I used large forks to turn it over. The other side browned in about 5 minutes.

I reduced the oven to 325 degrees. I think the old standard is ten minutes a pound, but I decided to use my oven probe to make sure the lamb cooks only to medium rare, or 125 degrees.

The thing is, when you use a probe, you actually have to listen for the beeping that tells you that the probe has reached the desired temperature. I, unfortunately, was not in the kitchen, so the oven went to HOLD and continued to cook my precious lamb roast.

When I realized that the lamb had been in the oven too long, I quickly took it out of the pan and let rest on a cutting board.

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When I sliced it, the lamb wasn’t terribly overcooked, but it certainly wasn’t medium rare, which is how I love it. This is not a mistake I haven’t made before – I’ve got quite a few burnt pots to prove that I get distracted easily when I’m cooking.

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If lamb is cooked properly, just like a filet mignon, it doesn’t need much!

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I served the lamb with persillade and roasted tomatoes.

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The persillade was also wonderful with the tomatoes.

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The pinkest parts of the lamb were wonderful, probably because of the high quality of the meat.

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Overall, I’m really disappointed in this book. I don’t think photos taken from an observer’s perspective does anyone any good when trying to learn an involved skill like meat butchering. I had better luck closing the book and using common sense.

Persillade

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Parsley in French is persil, so it’s not surprising that persillade is a parsley sauce, combining the freshness of parsley, with butter, garlic, and lemon. It is also called Sauce Persil.

Personally, I love all of the green sauces, like pesto, gremolata, and chimichurri, so I knew I’d love persillade.

I was inspired to make it because of my friend Stéphane’s blog My French Heaven, specifically the post is entitled “The Power of Love, Laughter, and Persillade.” (It’s one of my favorites!)

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On that post he has a recipe for grilled scallops with persillade, but it’s a wonderful addition to not only seafood but meat and poultry as well. I’m making it for roast lamb.

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Parsley, I feel is really an underused and appreciated herb, having filled the role in fine cuisine as primarily a decoration. But I use it in just about everything – vinaigrettes, pestos, marinades, and so forth.

There are many variations for persillade, I discovered. What I’ve noticed mostly is the use of olive oil instead of butter, and either lemon zest, lemon juice, or no lemon. But the parsley and garlic are always clearly the main players.

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Here’s what I did.

Persillade

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, rinsed, patted dry
3-4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces unsalted butter
Squeeze of lemon

Place the parsley and garlic in a food processor and process. Add 3 ounces of melted butter and the salt and process, but don’t over process. You want to see the parsley and garlic bits.

Place the remaining butter in a small saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Stir in the persillade and give the mixture a good stir, and once you smell the garlic, remove the saucepan from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon.

Serve immediately so the butter stays warm and melted. It’s challenging to keep the parsley and garlic in suspension in the butter, so the persillade ends up looking like a green blob.

With scallops and shrimp, they can be tossed in the persillade. I served the persillade with lamb slices and roasted tomatoes.

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Stéphane claims that no one really loves escargots. It’s all about the persillade. He might be right!