In a previous post I wrote about the cultural yuckiness factor of certain foods. Snails must be on the list of things most Americans think are gross.  It took me years to actually want to eat snails, and I'm still not 100% convinced I should really be eating them even as I chew. In fact, I absolutely cannot eat them in the classic fashion, served in their shells with yummy garlic-parsley butter that would make even badger testicles taste delicious. My sad lack of enthusiasm for eating snails persists despite the sexiness of the accessories involved. I have a particular weakness for serving dishes designed for just one type of food, like asparagus platters, egg cups or caviar dishes. I don't even like caviar! Consider the artful display of a dozen escargots:  in restaurants you'll get a special little dish like this one

(isn't it cute?) with 12 indentations to hold the shells.  You are presented with a special snail clamp to hold the shell steady. It looks like something used for brain surgery, and there's a wicked looking fork to dig the little guy out of his hidey hole.  It's all very enticing, like a child's toy medical bag. Faced with the reality of a plate of snails in front of me, I choke. This happens at the precise moment when I pull one out with the terrible snail fork and bring it up to my mouth, poised and ready to bite. The soggy worm-like body and antennae-eyes hanging down below the fork trigger my gag reflex, and my appetite is spoiled. I can't eat them.

            In Frank Herbert's DUNE science fiction series, the Bene Tleilaxu scientists create a genetically engineered hybrid of pigs and slugs which Herbert called 'slig' in order to provide a cheap source of protein for the galaxy masses. Alas, I think of slig every time I eat snails.  Such are the perils of reading science fiction. 

I have learned to eat snails if I hide them in something tasty. I tell myself or other picky guests or suspicious children they are  mushrooms. The small chewy, meaty chunks taste like bacon. I pretend to be Paul Atreides Muad'Dib eating slig.

            Snails are actually supposed to be good for you: 15% protein and only 3% fat.  They contain good fats that may actually lower cholesterol. They are a source of calcium, iron, selenium and vitamins E, A, K and B12. I imagine they cure cancer, end world hunger and bring John Lennon back from the dead, just like kale does.

            A word about obtaining snails: don't think you can just go out and gather any old gastropod crawling around in your back yard and boil it up. You don't want to end up  like those Vietnamese immigrants who ate poison mushrooms that looked similar to the ones back in Asia and ended up in the hospital with liver failure. Snails have to be the right breed. Helix pomatia are considered the best, but helix aspersa or helix lucorum are good and less expensive although their texture is supposedly less pleasant as their pomatia cousin. Snails gathered in the wild must be purged of any possible nasty (i.e. poisonous) substances they may have ingested that could make humans sick, while not bothering the snail.

            My French mother in law is a woman of great courage and once performed the work of purging snails to make her grandkids happy. My daughter was always keenly interested in eating and creepy crawly things.  She had gathered a couple dozen snails in the backyard and wanted to try eating them. Her grandmother did all the work to purge the snails, prepare and cook them. Tasting the result of 2 weeks of work led me to the following conclusion: I'd rather buy the critters in a can, since the taste is the same and someone else has handled the really disgusting work.  Take my advice and buy them here.



If you’re curious for more go here: my article about snails in burgundy



So my francophile friends, be brave, be bold! Try one of the recipes below that make eating snails less yucky by hiding them in innocent-looking preparations. 


Chicken Breasts stuffed with snails


4 boneless chicken breasts

½ can snails, drained and rinsed

1 bunch fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic

2 shallots (If you can’t locate shallots, substitute green onions or leeks)

2 Tbsp butter

sprinkle of salt

few grinds of pepper


for the sauce: 

8 shallots

¼ cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup dry white wine (Chablis, chardonnay)

¼ cup chicken stock

1 stick (4 oz) butter


Serve with rice, greens and beets.


1/pound the chicken breasts flat inside a Ziploc bag.  Chop garlic, shallots and parsley fine.

2/ sauté the garlic and shallots in the butter until soft.  Add parsley and set aside.  Boil some water in a large saucepan.

3/Lay each breast on a large square of heat-proof plastic wrap (microwaveable) and spread the parsley mixture evenly over the breasts-sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.

4/Arrange some snails (drained and rinsed) on the breasts, and fold over the breast to make a pocket—wrap the plastic wrap tightly around the snail so it makes a sausage-like package.

5/ Lower the water to a simmer and place the breasts in the saucepan, cover and cook about 30 minutes at barely simmering temperature.

6/meanwhile prepare rice and vegetables and sauce.

7/To prepare the sauce, chop the shallots fine and place in a small pan with the vinegar and the white wine.  Simmer until almost evaporated. . . about 15 minutes on low heat.  There should be just a tablespoon of liquid left.

8/Add the chicken stock and boil 5 more minutes.  Meanwhile, unwrap the chiken and arrange on a serving plate.

9/Just before serving, heat the wine mixture and whisk in the butter by tablespoons to make a creamy emulsion.  Immediately spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces, garnish with parsley and serve.


Snail Quiche


9 inch pie pan with your favorite (butter!) crust

1 Tbsp olive oil or butter

2 leeks, white and tender green parts chopped OR 1 onion+1 clove garlic+1 bunch green onions, chopped

2 large eggs

1½ cups half and half or cream

1 bunch parsley, chopped OR ½ cup chopped spinach

½ tsp each: oregano and thyme

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 can snails, drained and rinsed.


1/ heat oven to 400 degrees F.

2/sauté the leek or onion-garlic mixture in the oil until soft.

3/beat the eggs in a small mixing bowl with salt, pepper and herbs.

4/while beating, pour over the cream or half and half, mixing completely

5/mix in the parsley or spinach.

6/spread the leek mixture on the bottom of the pastry crust, then the snails.

7/Pour the egg mixture over the top.

8/bake for 25-35 minutes, until a knife inserted half-way from the edge comes out clean.

9/serve hot or warm with a tossed salad.


Bon appetit!