Have you ever eaten snails, or are you repulsed by the thought of putting one of these little creepy crawlies in your mouth? I get that not everyone would be happy about seeing a big plate of snails arrive at the dining table, but I absolutely love them! Here in Athens we mainly find them served at Cretan-style restaurants and tsipouradiko. On Crete, snails are eaten as a main meal, so no tiny plates with only six snails on them that you might’ve seen at a French-style restaurant. No! An average serving size could probably be about 20 snails per person. There are many ways of serving snails – I’ve read about snail pies, snail moussaka, snail stew, or snails simply served in a tomato sauce – but my favorite is this very simple recipe that relies heavily on good olive oil and fragrant rosemary.
How to prepare and clean live snails for cooking?
1. Collect and purge snails.
If you have decided to go outside and harvest your live snails, collect them in a bucket and keep them in a closed box with air holes or a fine-mesh cage with a bit of flour to eat for about a week. After the time has passed, withdraw food about three days before they’re going in the pot.
2. Select live snails
After some time in the container, you need to make sure that the snails are still alive. Put the snails in a big bowl or sink and run cold water over them. Leave them in a layer of water until their heads poke out or they try to crawl out. Throw away the snails that have remained dormant, or that look, like, you know, super dead. [instructions continue below]
3. Boil and clean snails
Take a big pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Add a bit of salt and a splash of vinegar and add the snails. Boil for about 20 – 25 minutes, changing the water once or twice (there is a lot of dirt and gunk that comes out). After boiling throw away the water and wash the snails well with cold water. Scrape away the seal/membrane covering the opening of the shell (you can also do this before boiling the snails). Now, the snails are ready to be used in the dish of your choice, or to be frozen for later use.
Snails in Olive Oil, Garlic and Rosemary
- 500g snails
- 40g flour for dusting
- 250ml good olive oil (Yeah, that much!)
- splash of red wine vinegar
- 3 - 4 cloves of garlic
- 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, or around 3 tablespoons of dried rosemary
- A good amount of salt
- Black pepper to taste
- Nice piece of bread for dipping
MethodNote: instructions on how to get live snails ready and pre-boiled for use are in the post above.
- Flour the pre-boiled snails and add a good amount of salt.
- Heat a frying pan on medium heat. Add a good amount of olive oil. I mean… really… you will be thanking me later when you mop up the flavorful oil and juices with a nice piece of crusty bread.
- Add the snails with their openings facing the pan and fry them for a couple of minutes while stirring.
- Add a splash of red wine vinegar, finely chopped garlic, ground black pepper and roughly chopped (when using fresh) rosemary. Stir. About 3 minutes later your snail dish is done!