Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Snails...with Crimini Mushrooms & Roasted Red Peppers over Grilled Polenta

First things first, I believe this may be one of my more breakthrough posts for two reasons.

1. This was a reader request. I got an email from a cousin of my boyfriend (he and his wife are very into cooking and food) and their only question was whether I had any recipes for snails or paella. Wow, stumped me there.

But, if there is anything I respond best to, it's a dare (or even a minor suggestion). Anyone who knows me from high school can surely attest to the lengths I would go on a dare for $7. (hint, it involved the teacher's cafeteria) So, I decided today I would summon my inner sense of youth and cook with snails.

2. The title of this blog is about my "adventures" in cooking and I am sure, somewhere out there, a reader has scoffed and said "Adventures? She makes pasta, salad and cocktails...seriously?" But, I will say that each new recipe, food item or preparation for me, the food-obsessed, truly is an adventure, so I stand by my title. That said, tonight was actually an adventure.

I have tried snails in restaurants and loved them; but to take them as a raw ingredient, stare at them on the counter while the sauce cooks and the polenta readies for grilling, wow, that really was an adventure. Thank goodness is was very delicious and was worth it!

So, the takeaway? I really believe I am an adventurous girl and an adventurous cook...and I create recipes by request - hope you like it Nik!

Snails with Crimini Mushrooms & Roasted Red Peppers over Grilled Polenta:
(serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as an entree)

1 7 oz can cooked and prepared snails, drained and rinsed*
1 c chopped roasted red peppers**
8 oz whole crimini mushrooms
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 c dry white wine (as needed)
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish
Polenta, salted and peppered, cut into rings or triangles***

Heat butter and oil in a saute pan, add garlic and cook slowly being careful not to brown garlic. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and simmer until mushrooms have released liquid and are reduced in size. Add roasted peppers and 1 c white wine and bring to a simmer for 30-45 minutes or until almost all liquid is absorbed.

Add prepared snails and remaining wine, simmer on low for 30-45 minutes or until mushrooms and snails are tender and smaller than when you started and the sauce has thickened.

Meanwhile, grill pieces of polenta until a crisp skin forms on both sides and they are warm throughout.

Lay polenta pieces on serving plates, pour pepper/mushroom/snail mixture over polenta and top with parsley for garnish. Serve immediately.

After a lot of Web research and not a lot of information readily available, I came to the conclusion that preparing snails fresh is possible only if you have access to them, if they are non-toxic, you are willing to endure very gross and tedious procedures and you have lots of time (weeks) to wait. For the rest of us, admit defeat and buy them prepared (either canned or in the seafood/meat section of a high-end or ethnic market). If you must try it yourself, here is one place I found with information on how it is done:
Garden Snails as Escargot (Sunset Magazine)

**Roasted Red Peppers:
To roast red peppers, blacken them over an open flame, on a grill or over a broiler. Once all sides are thoroughly blackened, put into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let "sweat." Once cool, peel off blackened skin. Or, if you are in a hurry, buy them in a jar/can or in the deli section of your grocery store.

***Fresh polenta (cornmeal):
It isn't hard to make, it just requires some patience and time. To create a shortcut, look for prepared polenta by Amy's or at Trader Joe's - it comes in a tube like cookie dough and can simply be cut into slices, seasoned and grilled for this recipe.


Peabody said...

I can't do snails. I think it was because when I was a teacher I had a snail puppet. I think if I went to eat one I would picture the puppet telling me not to eat him. :)

Kirsten said...

Peabody - LOL!! Once a teacher, always a teacher. :)

Lis said...

You are adventurous, that's for sure!

I have no problems eating lobster or shrimp - essentially bugs that live in deep water. BUGS.

I can not eat a snail.. BUG. Go figure.

I read how to capture, purge & feed garden snails with your link.. thanks it was interesting in a squicky kind of way. heheeee!

Seriously though, that's what really makes a good cook - trying things that push your abilities and imagination, and you, my friend, did just that. Well done! =)

Now I'd like to see your Paella. :D

Rose said...

I love snails. When I was a kid I used to pick them my self with my friends and my mom would cook them for us .It may sound crazy for a lot of people but they were very good. We cook them in a broth with tomato, garlic and a lot of thyme...YUMM

Freya and Paul said...

I've always wanted to try snails and my local supermarket has them in their 'posh' section - and they really taste OK from a can? I'll give them a go!

Melanie said...

The snails are definitely adventurous but I'm not surprised in the least. And I was thrilled to see the grill pan being put to good use! :) xoxo

Kirsten Schaefer said...

Hey Freya, yes, you'll have to try them! The canned ones were ok - fresh is probably better though.

Hi Rose! I am glad to hear about other snail lovers. My stomach did lurch a bit at first, but they were quite good.

Mel - thanks!! I ADORE my grill pan. xoxo