A couple of weeks ago I hosted a Cretan-themed dinner, featuring traditional dishes from Greece’s largest island – Crete. This island is considered the birthplace of the Mediterranean Diet and these folks like to stick to their traditions.
That includes using their staples with include snails and sour trahana. Snails…you want to call them escargot? That’s fine but you’ll be charged an extra $5 for the dish. Snails can be collected after a rainfall then they are placed in a pen, given pasta to eat (cleanse them) after which the snails go into a sleep mode until you’re ready to cook them.
Snails are a part of the mollusc family and I love them! The other Cretan staple is Ksinohontros…it’s course sour trahana. Ksino means sour from the yogurt mixed in with the cracked wheat and hontros (fat) to describe the big chucks of trahana. The yogurti s mixed with the cracked wheat then dried in the sun and broken apart and stored for future use. An ancient staple eaten in Crete and through much of Greece.
My friends and Nisos Importing brought me a jar of farm-raised snails from Crete and I simply added them in a pot with lots of onions, garlic, herbs, wine, tomato and simmered to a thick, rich sauce that’s finished with rosemary and red wine vinegar
The snail stifado was paired with a creamy sour trahana where I simply added hot stock (in increments like risotto) to result in a creamy consistency. Serve up as I have on spoons as an appetizer or place a scoop of trahana in a bowl, top with snails stifado and enjoy a bowl of Cretan comfort.
Snails Stifado With Sour Trahana
1 kg. of large snails (canned or jarred)
4-5 scallions, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1/2 cup of Cretan extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. of tomato paste
4-5 medium ripe tomatoes, passed through a box grater
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
For Creamy Sour Trahana
3 cups sour trahana
5 cups hot stock
pinch of salt, ground pepper to taste
- 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 sweat for about 8-10 minutes.
- Now add the snails, tomato paste, 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 tomatoes. Take off heat, reserve.
- To cook the trahana, add the stock in a medium pot and bring up to boil. Add a pinch of salt and the trahana and stir. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring every couple of minutes. The trahana should be cooked until most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 8-10 minutes). Add more liquid if required, keep stirring/adding liquid until cooked. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Divide the trahana in bowls and top with with snail stifado, garnish with fresh rosemary. Serve with Mediterra Nea Gaia Sauvignon Blanc-Vilana.
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