Growing up, my dad’s job required me to sit though countless white tablecloth dinners. Often, I ate escargot as my entrée since it was small and appropriately portioned for a little girl. From these meals, snails became a huge part of my own personal food history, and an important touchstone of my ultimate love of this industry. And yet, prior to eating Royce Oliveira’s escargot empanadas at To The Wind Bistro, which I recently reviewed, I’d never even considered cooking them at home.
Oliveira’s empanadas reminded me that you really don’t need the special ceramic dish or those tongs that look like eyelash curlers to enjoy this Burgundian vineyard creature. In fact, folded with melted leeks and cream cheese, enveloped in pastry chef Leanne Adamson’s house-made crust, and topped with oyster mushrooms and Parmesan, I’d argue that this version was far more delicious. Combine my regular cravings for Oliveira’s dish with the recent savory pie craze and I fired off an email, asking the chef for his recipe.
I excitedly procured a 28-ounce can of large snails from our neighborhood fishmonger, Bruce Johnson of Seafood Landing, and hit the market for leeks, garlic, and gobs of butter. That’s when things got interesting. I realized in making Oliveira’s recipe that it was going to take an entire evening just to make the filling. The chef’s instructions called for an hour of sweating here, an hour of simmering there, another hour of reducing after that. Dinner quickly turned into the next day’s afternoon snack. Next, I learned that a standard can of escargot produces enough filling for at least 60 empanadas. I hope my neighbors like snails. Finally, I confirmed that—no matter how many hours of bubbling and stirring and steeping were called for—I should not cheat and use puff pastry for empanadas despite the countless online suggestions to do so. Frozen puff pastry produced a lovely, flaky, buttery crust…that in no way resembled an empanada. Three days and don’t-tell-my-husband-how-many ingredient dollars later, it was clear there is a reason that escargot belongs—and should stay—in restaurants.
I know a lot of people who make menu selections when they eat out based exclusively on what they “can’t make at home.” My suggestion is for even the bravest cooks among us to add escargot to that list.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock