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What is Escargot?

Escargot is the generic term for any edible snail.
Escargot is one of the most famous dishes in French cuisine.
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  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2014
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One of the most famous dishes in French cuisine is escargot, a preparation of snails that can be served with a variety of sauces. Some American consumers find the thought somewhat disconcerting, as snails are not associated with food in the United States. Americans eat other mollusks, however, such as abalone, and some adventurous diners do try snails at least once for the experience. When well prepared, their flavor and texture can be quite delightful, and they have been enjoyed in many Mediterranean nations for centuries.

While people who are not from France think that the word refers to a specific dish, in fact it is a generic term for edible snails. The most common preparation is boiling or steaming, and the snails are often served in the shell on a special plate that has small depressions for each shell. Diners use tongs to extract the flesh from the shell, along with small two-tined snail forks, and then dip the snail into the sauce provided. A garlic and butter sauce is the most common, but wine sauces and others are not unusual.

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Snails can be collected in the wild or farmed for prepared escargot. Farmed snails are fed on a mixture of green and dried foods, with some producers preferring dried food because it is less messy than fresh greens. Some cooks also feed the snails herbs like dill to give them a delicate flavor. Either way, the snails must go through a period of fasting that usually lasts for one week before being prepared to cleanse their intestines, which can make the dish turn bitter if not completely emptied. During the fasting period, the creatures are kept in wooden ventilated boxes and food is withheld. The snails are gently washed every other day in running water, which stimulates them to empty their guts.

Some cooks salt their snails, producing a large amount of foam that removes the last of their impurities. Others simply throw the snails into salted boiling water for cooking before draining them and bringing them to the table to eat, either as an appetizer or an entree. Simmering the snails in a white wine can also add to the flavor, and in addition to being served plain, escargot can be tossed with pasta or used to stuff vegetables for appetizers.

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anon285648
Post 40

This is something I will never try. I actually never knew people ate snails - coming from a person who lives in New Zealand. It wasn't until I was given a 12-week assignment to complete about French cuisine and because this dish totally caught my attention I have decided to use it! I'm amazed to know that so many people eat them.

anon269847
Post 39

I'll stick to a vegan diet. All vegetables are kosher and they sure are a lot less work to prepare, even when you grow them yourself. Snails aren't kosher, and they have a digestive system with poo in it. I don't think any amount of "purging" is going to clean it all out. I'm just sayin'.

anon262811
Post 38

You can tell the Americans from the internationals just by reading a few words. The Americans are typically ignorant, arrogant, unintelligent, insanely overly politically correct for no apparent reason. Like others have said, your meat is slaughtered and vegetables are poisoned far more viciously than this.

Also, the American government plays with its citizens by adding chemicals to the food, so how is eating a snail any different? I'm going to try snails Cantonese this evening for the first time, and you know what? I'm American and ashamed to be after seeing these posts.

anon193098
Post 37

Don't interpret the lead article the wrong way. A few days without food is no time at all for a snail. What do you think they eat during the cool winter months? The answer is: nothing at all. The cool water in which they are washed makes them 'go' -it's an involunary reaction to the cool water, exactly what they do when it starts to rain. It ensures that they don't become dehydrated. If there's no rain, they won't go to the bathroom. If there is no rain, they only come out in the very early mornings to soak up the morning dew and then go to a dark, cool place. Ever see a snail out basking in the warm summer sun? No!

And I've never actually known anyone who salts their snails while alive, but who knows, they're probably the same sadists who eat veal. As with any shellfish, place them in the freezer for a few minutes to put them to sleep before cooking them. Snails are delicious!

anon172074
Post 35

Snails are delicious! They should cook for only a few moments in the shallot/garlic butter. Perhaps a splash of white wine as well.

A lot of people ruin them by cooking them too long so they become rubbery or by adding a gross amount of garlic. Cooked properly, they should have the consistency of a gently cooked mushroom. The garlic should just kiss the snails for flavor, not overwhelm them.

There are many ways to cook escargot (which only means snail, not a specific dish). Try some with just a bit of butter at first so you can really appreciate their very delicate flavor.

anon142273
Post 33

I was wondering if snails have any nutritional value, because I have been craving snails of late?

anon136510
Post 32

I live in Malaysia and I love escargots. Do you think I can use my garden snails? The snails in my garden have a pointed shell as oppose to rounded tip. Can anyone comment on that?

anon122401
Post 31

I had escargot for the first time about two weeks ago. I had my best friend eat one first lol and when she said they were not chewy i ate the rest of them with no problem. they were quite yummy, but could not get my mother to try one. can't say i will eat them again because of thinking of what they really are.

anon117292
Post 30

It doesn't sound cruel to the snail but cruel to ourselves. Do you really find it delicious or do you think that it seems delicious? Also they put juice of snails that remained in the bowl which they put snails before cooking it. Of course I respect to every cuisine because that is their tradition but I just wanted to say my own idea.

anon101599
Post 29

Do the snails need to be boiled alive, or could you behead them first then cook? I like the idea of trying snails but not the desiccating them alive in salt or boiling. Call me a hypocrite but I don't like the idea of the little cute snails suffering if it can be done more humanely.

anon90234
Post 28

I'm enjoying my snails as we speak. First, I melted a lot of butter, threw in a ton of garlic and mushrooms, then let that cook. Then, I added parsley, green onions, and cilantro. I splashed in a very small amount of milk and some EVOO.

After all that, I put my snails in a pan and poured on my sauce, then stuck them in the oven for 15 minutes. Voila! Delicious snails. Yum, yum, yum. I must say, I outdid myself. Haha. Very easy, and delicious recipe.

mDickinson
Post 27

Eww, snails look funny. Eww, they're icky! Ewww, let me have a Happy Meal. If you went to a slaughter house you'd never eat a hamburger again. Grow up, McDonald's generation. Snails are delicious!

anon77182
Post 26

When one has the absolute perfection of steak and potatoes, why should one root around in the dirt for snails? Silly French! They will eat anything and call the rest of us barbarians!

anon76637
Post 25

We just came back from visiting France, and we tried escargot in a fancy expensive restaurant. I did not like them at all - the taste was not so bad, but the texture in my mouth was quite unpleasant. I ended up having to gracefully spit it back into my napkin and take a large mouthful of yummy goat cheese to get rid of the sensation. Epic fail!

anon73686
Post 24

I will not be trying these, just like I would never eat brain or tongue. Yucko!

anon73574
Post 23

most americans do not known how to eat or they do not want to try anything beside steak and mashed potato.

anon63820
Post 22

Cruel to the snail? That's pathetic! They are delicious when cooked with shallots or garlic and butter--just don't overcook 'em or they get rubbery. 5 minutes at 375 degrees and, voila! Serve with a nice crusty bread. Yum!

anon58334
Post 21

I think he has to first eat crap on a bun to compare the flavor difference, don't you?

I wonder if he has actually eaten crap on a bun and how was it prepared -- was it steamed or broiled?

And also is it just an appetizer or is it a meal?

anon51518
Post 19

Snails taste like crap in a bun.

anon49256
Post 18

My question is has anyone ever tried conch before? It is also a snail. If you have which one do you prefer more escargot or conch, and why?

anon37316
Post 16

I was very nervous the first time i had to eat snails but once you get over the taboo about them and fix them with a compound butter. They are delicious, just like people with caviar.

girishkhare
Post 15

this is an answer for 3469... Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur that is normally the drink people have while eating escargot or oysters...it's yum..

anon27545
Post 14

is snail in the meat category?

anon25596
Post 13

omg!i don't really even like snails when they are alive! to think of eating them and im reading scary stories, so that's even worse!!!! o well, if u like them, go head and eat them.

anon23387
Post 12

Cruel to snails? Do you eat meat? Go visit a cow slaughterhouse one day, or a chicken farm. That is way more cruel. You can't pull out that card without being a hypocrite unless you are a vegetarian.

anon17165
Post 11

what's cruel about it? Don't we kill plants and butcher them with everything else people eat. Most vegetables are living and would survive and reproduce had we not cut them off and take their reproductive organs (seeds) out to eat. What do you think is worse, taking their meat or chopping their reproductive organs off. Being a male, I'd rather die than be castrated.

anon12670
Post 10

Just had some for Mothers Day and I must say I will eat it again. Very meaty and tasty. Culinary Adventurist

anon12251
Post 9

I love the taste of snails. As a kid I use to step on them but now, wow, I enjoy eating them more. Yes, I am an American.

The post earlier by anon2804, if you are a meat eater, you should find out what they do with that meat on your table and you will see that it's no different than how they prepare the snails for a great dish.

bigmetal
Post 8

escargot is all about the sauce my friends! i had it once, and the texture is no picnic. but the sauce was good. it just proves that if you have a delicious sauce on it, you can eat just about anything!

anon9221
Post 7

I am told that escargot is really good. But Im not sure if I should eat it. just the thought of eating a snail is a huge turn off for me.

anon7792
Post 6

Wow, yeah, I agree with the first post. This sounds extremely cruel to a largely harmless little animal. I don't like the idea of starving a creature for several days before its death, just so it's digestive remnants don't throw off the flavor of its meat to our tongues! The preparation of snails sounds very inhumane. Never mind, I don't think I want to try them anymore!

anon6024
Post 5

this is great

anon6002
Post 4

hey this is great i was writing a 500 word esay and this info helped me finish

grade 9 student gss

anon3469
Post 2

If I were traveling in France and eating escargot in restaurants, what wine would I be having with the meal? Would it be a dry white? What are the names of the wines I might order? Chardonnay, a white Beaujolais, what would it be called?

I am writing a poem about a guy doing work around his house but daydreaming of traveling through France and gorging himself on fine cuisine. But I don't know what he would order with his snails.

anon2804
Post 1

It sounds cruel to the snail. I thought I was willing to try snails until I read the article. Now, much as I dislike them and what they do to my plants, I can't bear the thoughts of man being cruel to something to make food. I guess this is too much info for me!

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