Escargot is the fancy French word for “snail.” This dish consists of cooked land snails and is one of the most famous elements of French cuisine, typically served as an hors d’oeuvre.
It’s crazy to think that eating snails has become a delicacy in different countries. Most people connect snails to slimy, sidewalk creatures that usually come out when it rains. So, how did the escargot obsession begin?
The idea of edible snail dates back all the way to the 6th century BC when the hunter-gatherer tribes lived in what is now known as France. Their popularity really exploded when Talleyrand in 1814 wanted to impress Russian Tzar Alexander I on a visit to Paris. Talleyrand’s chef was asked to prepare a dish the Tzar has never tried before. Coming from Burgundy, he decided to prepare a local dish of snails with garlic butter and parsley.
The Tzar was so impressed with the dish that it became a common request. “Escargots des Bourgogne” was born!
From then on, escargot became a meal served for special occasions or as a starter at Christmas.
As elegant as they sound, I bet you can’t help but wonder what escargot actually tastes like. I mean come on, it’s a snail. So, exactly what does escargot taste like?
To quickly describe it, escargot is said to taste like fish or chicken, combined with an earthiness reminiscent of mushrooms. Keep reading to learn more about this French delicacy!
What Does Escargot Taste like?
I think it’s safe to say that escargot is an acquired taste; not everyone’s going to indulge in snails.
However, for those intrigued to know, escargot is said to have a taste/texture that resembles clams.
They also can be compared to the taste of fish or chicken with an earthiness reminiscent of mushrooms and just a smidge of “peppery.”
Typically speaking, escargot tends to take on the flavor of the butter or sauce with which it is cooked, meaning you can really flavor it up!
What’s the Texture of Escargot Like?
When you think of snails on a sidewalk, you probably think of them as slimy little creatures, but you’d be mistaken.
Traditionally speaking, it is said that snails have a chewy and rubbery texture, which is why it is said to have a similar texture to clams.
However, if cooked correctly, escargot will still be chewy but with a soft, almost melt-in-your-mouth consistency. This texture resembles the firmness of a mushroom, just with a little extra squish.
How to Serve Escargot
Snails are a common gastropod that you’ll see on the sidewalks around you, they’re not uncommon. You might think they’re easy enough to find and cook. But do not, and I cannot stress this enough, just pick snails from your backyard and stuff them! That is going to hurt you in more ways than one. You have to make sure they are prepared right.
Similar to oysters and shrimp, snails are gauged. Snails are then removed from the shell and the shell is cleaned and pasteurized in boiling water. The intestine part of the snails is then chopped off and they are set to dry. Once dried, the snails are cooked into a broth to flavor the meat. Once cooked, they are stuffed back into the shell (or not, but that’s a preference thing). Bake them in the oven with the rest of the stuffing and voila! You’ve got yourself escargot.
Since escargot is an upscale dish, it is meant to be served on some sort of platter. If you don’t have an escargot serving dish, you can serve the snails on a bed of kosher salt, which helps to stabilize the shells on a dish or platter. Traditionally you’ll also eat escargot with snail tongs and a snail fork to help you get the meat out of the shell.
Along with the escargot, the flavors are best served with some crusty bread or a baguette to sop up all of the garlicky, buttery goodness.
Is Escargot Good for You?
With all the garlic and butter, it can’t possibly seem like escargot could be good for you, right? Well, much to my surprise, is that there are some nutritional benefits to eating these snails.
Let’s break it down per serving first.
In one 4-ounce serving of raw snails, there are 102 calories, 2 grams of fat, 57 milligrams of cholesterol, 79 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, and a whopping 18 grams of protein. That protein amount is similar to the amount found in pork and beef!
But what’s better about them is that they also contain a much lower fat content. Who would’ve thought snails could be a better alternative to other meats?
Escargot Health Benefits
Aside from a large amount of protein with low amounts of fat, snails are also a good source of iron calcium, Vitamin A, and other minerals.
Vitamin A helps your immune system fight off diseases as well as strengthens your eyes. It can also help cells in your body grow. The calcium helps your body’s bones stay strong and reduce the risk of developing bone-related problems such as osteoporosis. As for iron, it helps your red blood cells move oxygen to all parts of your body. Not to mention it keeps your hair, nails, and skin healthy.
It’s crazy to think snails have this many benefits, but we’re not done yet.
Escargot can also improve anemia. Iron-deficient anemia can cause symptoms that include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, chest pain, headache, dizziness, and shortness of breath. If you eat snails, thanks to their large amount of iron (about 22% of your recommended daily intake), it may help relieve some of these symptoms.
Snails are also a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3s have been shown to improve heart health and reduce the risk of dying of heart disease. They also may help lower your blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, and keep your heartbeat steady.
Potential Risks of Eating Snails
Although snails contain tons of benefits, there are also a few potential risks you need to know about.
For starters, one of the biggest ones comes from how you prepare the snails. You have to make sure the snails are cleaned and gutted correctly as well as cooked through.
Although snails are a low-fat protein source, cooking them with butter and sauces runs the risk of adding the fat back in. These fats can over time cause clogged arteries and heart problems.
If you eat raw snails, you can get a condition called rat lungworm disease. Although very rare, it is still possible, which is why you want to cook your snails through.
Rat lung worm is a parasite that can get into snails if they come into contact with rat feces. If you eat raw snails with this parasite, you run the risk of infection. Infection signs include headaches, stiffness, vomiting, fever, and nausea.
But like I said before, it’s really rare to get this infection, and the sure way of preventing you from getting it is to simply cook the snails. Problem solved!