Clearing some weeds from around the house and I discovered quite the haul of snails. Big ones.
BIG Meaty ones. What can it mean? It’s a sign!
One made a break for it then stopped to munch some lichen…
One of the greatest living Englishmen in his double-awesome ‘Fat Duck Cookbook‘ devotes 7 pages to this dish.
I’ve read it plenty of times and figure that whilst it’s challenging (on all levels) I’m going to man up and have a go at a spot of Michelin 3* cooking!
The process of prepping them takes a couple of weeks. They’ve been washed, purged and fed up on a diet of sweet lettuce, cabbage, carrot peelings and onion and fronds of dill.
They’re then weaned off any vegetable matter and have been on a sprinkling of fine ground polenta for about 12 days.
There’s no delicate way to put this but…
…they were all now doing ‘white’ poops! Ready to cook.
They have had nothing to eat for the last three days. This morning, washed and rinsed for the final time and into a pan with a little salt and some fresh bay leaves.
All done. I kept waiting for them to start wriggling again… a sad fact is that once you snuff out the life in them they’re never coming back… they’ve moved on to fulfill a higher destiny… my Sunday supper!
Yeah. Big job. I had 62 to remove from their shells. I only needed a dozen this evening for this dish… the rest of the shells have been rinsed, boiled again in salted water, rinsed again and dried in a low oven.
I’ll make a classic Bourgogne Escargot dish with them.
All naked and keeping their curls.
Ok. The initial cooking process is just enough to liberate the snails from their shells. This stage transforms the texture and flavour.
Three hours @120c for the braising. The stock is made from an onion, halved and studded with cloves, chopped carrot and celery, bunch of rosemary, bunch of thyme, stalks from a bunch of parsley. Added 250ml of Muscadet and 100 ml of water. Covered with a little baking paper and braised in a low oven.
The residual stock? I’ll be making soup with that!
So – some more on this ingredient. The Blumenthal recipe calls for a salt cured and air dried duck breast. It takes (minimum) 20 days to make that and adds a layer of savoury flavour to the butter.
I had some home air dried beef on hand ( I make Biltong every summer – a hangover from time in Africa) – when it’s shaved like that in the foreground it is pure essence of Umami on the tongue.
I would *never* have put it in a herb butter. Genius.
Take-away-trick. Sauteé the garlic until lightly golden before blending. This was 85 g of garlic in 50g of butter. Transforms the harsh garlic edge away before adding to the base butter mix.
Blended 200g of butter with 200g of parsley. The shallots were cooked gently until translucent. The mushrooms zapped until caremelised.
The Blumthenal recipe called for ceps – none in the supermarché so I used normal champignon de paris. Caramelising the mushroom like that gave them the same great flavour you get from the mushrooms in a classic English fryup. YES!
Vinaigrette to dress the fennel topping. 140g rapeseed oil, 10g dijon, 50g of walnut infused white wine vinegar. I tasted that and thought it a bit one dimensional!
Heston might disapprove but I added two big pinches of sugar and a slug of fine ground white pepper. When he comes to my house and pays me £180 for his supper *then* he can complain!
Tiny amount of stock (40ml) and 20g of sifted porridge oats – enough to just hydrate the cereal and then blob in the herb butter.
Now to plate up :-
Finally, dress with the fennel shavings in their walnut vinaigrette.
A very long walk but what a journey. It was good!
The layers and complexity were all there…
Oats tasted of oats.
The butter to envelop the oats was multidimensional – savoury, herbal, very little hint of garlic… astonishing.
The ham was… ham. Salty and textured as it’d been well cured.
The snails? Herbal, meaty.. some were quite soft.. like a just-cooked foie-gras… rich and fatty.
The fennel, fresh, anis flavour… the bite of the vinaigrette dressing and the aroma of the nuts coming through.
Hats off to Heston. He da man.
12 days prep, one day pre-prep and about 7 man hours of my own time all in. The luxury of time is the key ingredient in all of this but the complexity and layering of flavours was something else.
My attempt was an approximation of the Blumenthal dish because whilst I had all the ingredients… he has the tools! I’m just never going to cough €4000 for a Pacojet.
Still, gave a good account of myself and will undoubtedly do it again. No question.
I’ve eaten food of this calibre a few times before and the combination of ingredients and techniques that are in play brings the dish to a whole ‘nother level.
Nothing for me to add, Heston says it all.
Except of course if you’d like to take me to dinner I’d quite like the tasting menu, please.
3.5 hrs worth of eating? £180!