This dish has been a long time comin’. Remember when I picked and jarred my own grape vine leaves for dolmades? Well…that same patch also was rampant with snails.
After consulting Maria of Organically Cooked, I went and harvested a bucket of snails which would have to be plumped and purged of any food they may have eaten of late.
Ideally, this process takes 4-6 weeks but it really wasn’t that difficult and the final, delicious result was well worth the wait.
First off, I found and used a plastic hamper-type crate, the ones often used to cart and transport fruits and the holes in the crate were small enough to not allow the snails to escape and I covered it with a wooden board.
I placed the snails in my garage with some of the grape vine leaves, some corn meal and pasta to feed the snails.
Each week (wearing plastic gloves) I removed as much fecal matter as possible but this task became easier with each passing week as the snails were mostly now in their dormancy stage and food did not have to be replenished and little additional poops were to be found.
Yesterday, time was up for my snails. I removed them from the plastic crate and placed them in my kitchen sink. I plugged the drain and filled the sink with water up to about 1 inch high.
Almost immediately upon submerging the snails did they realize they were in cold water and they did awake from their dormancy and started peeking out of their shells…trying to crawl out of the sink!
At this point, it was time to ascertain if there were any dead snails in the lot and I started plucking any snails (most) that had peeked out their shells and showed signs of life and I placed then in a nearby colander (with a cover on top).
Out of the 70 or so snails, perhaps a dozen were devoid of life, they felt lighter than the rest and upon close inspection, I could see that the opening if the the shell had a dark discolouring to it…YEP, they were dead and they got chucked.
Before I go on to the dish at hand, I’d like to thank Maria ofOrganically Cooked for her immense patience in educating me, hand-holding and encouragement throughout this process. I’ve given you the abridged version of the preparation of snails but you may source, with great detail how to find, prepare, clean and cook snails.
From here on…I’m on my own.
In order to rid the snails of any remaining impurities, I was instructed to boil the snails in in salted water until little or no scum was floating on the surface. I was lucky, as I only had to boil the snails two times (sometimes you need to repeat this process three – four times).
Before I get on to the dish, I must address the challenge of eating snails which for a novice like me, came with some difficulty at first.
I tried using a fork but that didn’t work. I could have bought snail utensils but I don’t eat snails that often to justify the purchase so…in a typical and resourceful Greek way, I used a wooden souvlaki skewer to poke, twist and pluck out the succulent snail meat from within the shell.
Eating snails are a delight. It’s a messy affair but if you’re like me, a “Kalofagas” who’s in pursuit of delicious foods, then you’ll want to give snails a try.
It’s a messy affair but the flavour, the eating with your hands, the frequent sips of Raki in between bites along with many a dunking of bread in the sauce makes it all worth the trouble of harvesting, plumping and preparing snails.
I have never visited Crete but after enjoying this dish, I just got a little closer to enjoying a vacation on Crete.
1 kg. of large snails
1 bunch of scallions, diced
1 large onion, sliced
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 pints of cherry tomatoes, roasted in the oven
7-8 cloves of garlic, roasted along with the tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup of water
salt and pepper to taste
splash of balsamic vinegar
- After boiling your snails to remove any remaining impurities, get a large pot on your stovetop and over medium-high heat, add your onions, scallions, bay leaves and rosemary and lower to medium and saute for about 5-10 minutes.
- Now add the snails, roasted tomatoes and garlic, wine and water and bring to a boil. Adjust seasoning with some salt and pepper, cover with a lid and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper and throw in a splash of balsamic vinegar to balance the sweetness from the onions and roasted cherry tomatoes.
- Serve in bowls as an appetizer with good crusty bread and some Raki, Ouzo or Tsipouro.
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