Thursday, February 7, 2013

Vol au Vent aux Escargots

We love escargots, which I learned to make many years ago in Paris when Gerard started gathering them in the Bois de Boulogne. Yes—this is a true story. Every time it rained, Gerard would go out the following morning and while walking the dogs, he would pick up a dozen or two live escargots and bring them home. I checked with Madame St. Ange (my cooking bible) and learned how to get them cleansed by feeding them lettuce until we had gathered enough of them and then giving them only white flour. When the flour came out of them as white as when it went in, it meant that all dirt and poisons they may have had inside were cleansed and they were ready to cook.

One spring we built a cage in the tiny backyard of our home in the 16th arrondissement, where we gave a series of dinner parties featuring escargots that impressed both our friends and family. One day we invited Gerard’s colleagues from the radio station where he worked for dinner, and the next day they spoke of the escargots from the Bois de Boulogne on their talk show. From that day on, hundreds of people started gathering the tiny creatures, and we could never again find enough for a meal.  So like everyone else, we learned to buy the escargots in cans with the shells and make the garlic butter ourselves. Last week I wanted to make escargots, but to my great shock, Adams did not have any more of the cans with shells and I had to buy the ones without shells. So I started a new adventure —this new recipe.

In the frozen-food section, I bought pastry shells that I have successfully used in many other recipes (shrimp, scallops, or mushrooms in a béchamel sauce also make very good fillings).
I followed the directions on the package to bake the pastry shells earlier in the day. I made the garlic butter and put it in the refrigerator. The following recipe was perfect for six people.

(Serves six)

¾ pound salted butter, softened, at room temperature
4 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
4 cloves finely chopped (not minced) garlic
4 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
12 pastry shells (two boxes, Pepperidge Farm found at Marona’s)
2 cans escargots, each containing two dozen (found at Adams’)


Blend the softened butter with the shallots, garlic, parsley, and salt until the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout. (This can be done in a mixer or by hand.)  Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Bake the pastry shells according to the package directions until the pastry is golden brown and well risen. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Remove the caps and hollow out the middle to make room for the snails and butter (to be added later). Set the shells aside. (This is easier to handle if you put the shells on a greased baking sheet and keep them on that sheet as they go in and out of the oven until they are ready to be served. They can be plated at the table or in the kitchen. )

Drain the contents of the escargot cans, leaving the snails in a colander to drain off the juices.
Remove excess liquid by wiping with paper towels.

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Gently push two snails into each of the cooked vol-au-vent shells and cover with a thin layer of the garlic butter. Add one or two more snails and a thick layer of garlic butter. Replace the pastry caps and reheat the shells for three to five minutes. (You are looking for the butter to bubble.)  Serve two per dish immediately. Warm up any remaining snails and  extra butter in a small casserole dish and serve on the side for anyone who wants more.  

No comments:

Post a Comment