French Cooking: Champignons farçis aux escargots

French Cooking: Champignons farçis aux escargots
  Snails (escargots) are just one of those foods like tripe, pig’s feet, frog’s legs, etc.—either you love them or hate them! Actually, snails have been part of the human diet since prehistoric times. Archaeologists have found evidence of many shells in the cave dwellings of early man. Later, snails became a favorite food of the wealthy Romans and Greeks. They liked them so much that they designed breeding farms. The Romans bathed the snails in milk and then fried them in oil. They claimed they had an aphrodisiacal effect. Snails were introduced to the French when Caesar invaded Gaul. His soldiers relished these delicacies, and they became quite a hit with the French. There’s also proof that the British (!) ate snails even before the Romans arrived—many shells were found in excavation sites from the pre-Roman times. In Europe during the Middle Ages, escargots were important because, according to the Bible, they are neither fish nor meat and could be eaten during times of lent. The winter snails, full of proteins and nutrients, became a natural conserve for Napoleon’s troops on the way to Moscow. There are two basic snail species: helix and achatine. Helix, the European variety, is distinguished by its spiral shell. The achatine originated in Asia and thrives in swamp areas. In the United States, snails are available canned either from France or Taiwan. The shells are usually sold separately. Escargots are found in many French, Spanish and Italian recipes. This week’s French Cooking without a Fuss offers a unique recipe that incorporates snails with mushroom caps, and garlic and parsley butter. Simple to make, this can be used for hors d’oeuvres or appetizers. Champignons farçis aux escargotsMushrooms stuffed with snailsFor 6 personsCooking and preparation time: 30 minutes 24 large mushroomsthe juice of half a lemon24 large escargots (canned and drained) Escargot butter:6 tbsp. butter, softened2 garlic cloves, minced1 tsp. shallots, minced2 tsp. parsley, mincedSalt and pepper, to taste Remove the stems from the mushrooms (reserve for another use). Quickly wash the caps. Put some water into a pot with the lemon juice. Bring to a boil and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and wipe dry. Preheat the oven to 425F. Make the butter by blending the butter, garlic, shallots, parsley, salt and pepper. Put one escargot in each mushroom cap and cover with the escargot butter. (This can be done in advance.) Place on a baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately with French bread. Et voilà! April Paute moved to France over 10 years ago with her husband Jean Michel and 2 Siamese cats. Armed with only a dictionary and hand signals, she took on the challenge of requesting the local boucher decapitate a chicken for her. After living in Paris and Antibes, April & co. have settled in Toulouse, where she draws inspiration from her herb garden.
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