Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fricassée of Escargot with a Purée of Sweet Carrots, Roasted Shallots, and Herb Salad

I’m writing this post during my flight to Portland, OR, and based on my scientific research over the past few hours, I would like to state for the record that Southwest is the fartiest airline. Man, people, what the hellz? I’m dying up here. It’s awfully hard to write about food when I’m suffocating from other people’s gastric distress (I’m looking at you, stripey shirt guy in 7C). But let’s change the subject, because bleeaaaerrghhh.

This flight excluded, this week has most certainly been a great week of feeding my two great loves – food and music. Monday night, I went to see The Police (for the second time this year), and Wednesday night, I met Tony Bourdain and heard him speak at an event. And, I’ll wrap up this week of cul-cha with a Saturday meet and greet with Michael Ruhlman. Am I a lucky girl, or what?

The Police were fantastic, despite the fact that some of their tunes have been reworked to be a little more 4-4 instead of the old school change-up beats we’ve come to expect. I blame Sting. Certainly my boyfriend Stewart Copeland would NOT elect to change the rhythms in such a way. No sir, no how.

Bourdain was a riot and had the crowd in stitches from the second he opened his mouth. F-bomb count: 58. He’s quit smoking, by the way, so bravo Tony. He couldn’t have been nicer about this blog, and for that I am grateful. He’s good people. He's touring to promote his new book, so if he's coming to your town, try to go see him.

One of the things Bourdain talked about was the origin of some of the food we now consider to be gourmet or at least indulgent – one example being escargot. Like Tony said, who was the first, obviously very hungry person who saw a snail chugging along and thought, “Perhaps I should pull that out of its shell and eat it.” Whoever it was, thank you.

I love snails. I remember eating them for the first time in France in 1984 when I was there for a musical exchange trip (shut UP). My dining companions looked at me like I was high when I ordered escargot. I’d already had a glass or two of wine by then, so it’s pretty clear the liquid courage played a key role in influencing my then-15-year old palate. The snails arrived and I remember thinking, “what have I done?” Not wanting to be embarrassed in front of my new friends, I ate them. It was so simple: garlic, butter, parsley and snails. For all the texture issues I had (and continue to have) with oysters and other chewy things, I was surprised at how good these were. I didn’t share them then… not that anyone asked, but I was happy to have them to myself. They were absolutely delicious then, and even better today with Keller’s preparation (which I was very happy to share with my friends). So, here goes...

The first thing I did was soak 2 marrow bones in a bowl of ice water to remove the marrow. Once the marrow slid out, I soaked it in a bowl of ice water in the refrigerator overnight:

The day before serving, I also got the snails ready. The French Laundry Cookbook offers two ways to do this: one using fresh snails and one using canned snails. I called all over the place and no one had fresh snails, so I had to use canned snails. I took them out of the can, rinsed them under cold water, then melted some butter in a small skillet. I added some minced shallots to the melted butter and let them cook for about 2 - 3 minutes. I added the snails and heated them on a low-heat burner for a minute or two:

I put this mixture into a plastic container and stored it in the fridge overnight. Before I went to bed that night, I also made the carrot purée. I thought about blowing off this step, because it seemed superfluous and unnecessary. Here's a spoiler: I was wrong. I made the carrot purée by putting the carrots in a saucepan:

I covered them with cream:

I brought the cream up to a simmer, and continued to simmer them over low-medium heat for about 45 minutes. Once the carrots were tender, I strained them, pressing gently on them while they were in the sieve to try and remove as much cream as possible. I then pressed the cooked carrots through a tamis to finish the purée:

I put the carrot purée (which smelled so clean and fresh, I wanted to eat it right then and there) in the refrigerator and went to bed. The next day, I finished the rest of the prep for the dish. I roasted some shallots with some salt and canola oil in a 350-degree oven for about an hour. I peeled the skins off the shallots and cut them into smaller pieces to use in the final plating later:

The last thing I needed to do was make the red wine sauce. I heated a small bit of canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat. I added some chopped carrots and turnips and sautéed them for about 3 minutes. I added a smashed garlic clove, then deglazed the pan with a cup of red wine and a little bit of port.

I simmered this mixture until it had evaporated and the pan was mostly dry. In a separate pan, I placed the marrow (which I'd drained and chopped into a small dice) and some minced shallots and heated it over low heat for about two minutes.

I then added a tablespoon of flour and stirred it into the marrow and shallots, and cooked it for another minute or two.

In a separate small saucepan, I heated 1.5C of veal stock and a half-cup of water until it was hot (but not simmering or boiling). I added the stock and water to the carrots and turnips, and then whisked all of that into the saucepan containing the marrow and shallots. I then added chervil, parsley, tarragon and a bay leaf and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes:

I strained the sauce into a smaller saucepan and set it aside while I got the snails ready for their final preparation before plating. To do that, I put minced shallots, tomato diamonds, brunoise, butter and water into an overproof saucepan, and added the snail mixture I'd made the night before, as well as the roasted shallots. I put the pan into a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes, until everything was heated through.

I simultaneously made some brioche croutons (with a loaf of brioche I'd bought at the local food co-op), and reheated the carrot purée.

To plate, I put a few spoons full of red wine sauce into each dish, followed by six snails (and the vegetables that were heating with them), then put a small spoonful of carrot purée next to it, and topped it off with a brioche crouton:

This dish was absolutely delicious. The escargots were hearty and earthy and buttery and delicious. I wasn’t so sure how the carrot purée would fit in, but it brightened up the dish and livened up each bite. It was so wonderful to scoop a little bit of the snail mixture onto a corner of the brioche and top it with a little carrot purée, then chomp down and take that corner bite.

The adults absolutely loved this dish. There wasn’t a whole lot of talking going on – we were contentedly savoring every bite. The kids had other opinions, and weren't shy about letting us know how they felt. The girls, “M” and “S,” loved the brioche dipped in the sauce, and after eating a bite of snail, drank about a liter of water for dramatic effect while they hacked and gagged. My ten-year old neighbor kid, Grant (of the famed Grant Tipton Days), took a few bites and remarked, “it’s good but it’s also kind of gross because I have to keep chewing it. May I be excused?”

Maybe when he's 15, in France, drinking with new friends, he'll boldly order snails on a dare and enjoy them with a whole new perspective.

Up Next: Cranberry and Apple Küchen (from French Laundry At Home’s Portland, OR outpost, complete with gratuitous umlauts and Hans Zimmer references!)

Roland canned snails from Rodman’s
Produce from Whole Foods
Herbs from my garden
Brioche from TPSS Co-op
Organic Valley cream
Cloudy Bay cabernet sauvignon
Fonseca Port
Marrow bones from Union Meat Company

Music to Cook By: The Tragically Hip; Fully Completely. I admit it: I’ve been watching The Next Iron Chef on Food Network. One of the chefs, Chris Cosentino (Incanto), was recently eliminated. Chris shares the same last name as a guy in Toronto I used to work with, Mike Cosentino, who introduced me to The Tragically Hip many years ago. So that’s how you get from a competitive reality show about food to a Canadian pop band. I’m not random at all.


Anonymous said...

Eeeewwww!!! That's for the guy on the plane, and maybe for the snails, too (I don't know, never tried them)!

But I love reading your blog.

kogepan said...

Escargot? Yum! You've inspired me to crack open my copy of French Laundry and try to make something "easy".

I remember on one of the episodes of Gordon Ramsey's "The F Word", he used snails out of his back garden! He mentioned that you should feed them carrots(?)and after their poop cleared out, you'd leave them in the fridge for a day to starve and then you could eat them. Such an interesting concept, but I've never been brave enough to try it!

Jo said...

Hee hee, snails are slimy, crunchy and chewy. That's what my husband has to say about them served Chinese style. It's been 15 years. I have forgotten the texture. He tried really hard to eat it. My mom smiled at him, and said it was alright if he couldn't take it. He says eating it French style is easier, all the garlic and butter, was more familiar to him. I haven't tried it that way, but I'm sure I would love it, as I adore garlic and butter.

Anonymous said...

How cool that you're meeting Bourdain and Ruhlman in the same week. Have tons of fun.

Your reports of your FLAH project continue to inspire. Awesome effort--thanks!

Arlene said...

Bourdain AND Ruhlman? So jealous. I was at the Bourdain talk and it was wonderful. When you meet Ruhlman, ask him why he isn't stopping in DC. We have a huge foodie base here for him to address.

Anonymous said...

Bourdain was greaton Wednesday night. Though I was a bit embarrassed for the women declaring their love- he's got an infant for chrissakes!

Curt McAdams said...

Your first paragraph sold me, regardless of the food or trip description. Very nice. :)

Kitt said...

What fun! Looks delish.

I've had snails so tiny you had to use a straight pin to get them out of the shell (France) and snails with shells as big as your fist (China). They're all damn tasty, and I like that chewy texture.

Too lazy to do multiple days of prep, though, so thanks for the vicarious enjoyment!

Anonymous said...

You can pick your own snails, but there is a process you have to go through in order to ensure that they've passed any baaaaad things they've ingested.

Fresh snails have a different taste from the canned.

Great site, I'll check back again.

Jaye Joseph said...

Southwest Airlines is one step above a bus in rural Mexico with people who have chickens on their laps. I absolutely refuse to fly it anymore. It's always families and screaming kids and hard core farters.

I'm so jealous that you got to meet Bourdain. He was just here in Austin and I tried to get tickets for weeks and no one was selling. He must have sold out in like, 20 minutes or something.

Olga said...

Hi! I was the girl sitting next to you at Bourdain: great idea to count the F words :)
I had snails only once on a cruiseline and really did not like them, but maybe I should give them another try.
My culinary adventure over the weekend: challah!

Anonymous said...

Steve Raichlen's "The Barbecue Bible" has a cool story about searching France for grilled snails. Turned into one of his favorite meals.

Portland is a fantastic foodie city--I envy you.


Anonymous said...

I've seen lots of snails at asain markets, but I agree with the previous poster--make sure they have passed anything undesireable.

dc365 said...

I think I was at the same Bourdain reading as you? You can read my summary here...if you scroll down, I think you'll particularly like the bit about Sandra Lee...