Our gas grill recently died and, after much deliberation, the hubby and I decided to replace it with a charcoal grill. This was a big step for us because although we’ve always preferred the flavor of charcoal grilled foods (absent “lighter fluid essence”), we had come to highly depend on the convenience of our gas grill. That was especially true for me when it came to developing new recipes. With the gas grill, I wouldn’t hesitate to test a small batch of something on the fly. Charcoal, on the other hand, required more forethought, time, attention and skill. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to deal with all that every time I wanted to test something I was working on. Thankfully, though, at the time of purchase the hubby also invested in one of those nifty chimney charcoal starters. That clever contraption has made the transition very, very easy. The chimney fires up the charcoal in a matter of minutes with the help of nothing more than newspaper, making the entire process efficient and easy. As of this writing, I’ve got the whole lighting-the-charcoal-grill thing down. Determining how much charcoal to use and managing the heat throughout the cooking process has proven a tad more challenging. But I’m working on that and having a lot of fun along the way.
One recipe I have mastered on the charcoal grill is the one for these Chargrilled Escargots. I came up with this idea a couple of years back while looking at an old menu I had from the now-shuttered French Quarter restaurant The Andrew Jackson. When I dined there as a kid, I always ordered the Escargots Bourgogne as my appetizer. I loved the texture of the snails and the rich, garlicky parsley butter it was cooked it. So in an effort to bring escargots current and make them appeal to a greater audience, I thought it would be a great idea to merge the basic flavors of that classic dish with the currently trendy technique for chargrilling oysters. Going into it, I wasn’t sure if the snail shells would hold up on a hot grill as well as the oyster shells–they do. And the smoky, slightly charred flavor from the charcoal fire nicely compliments the earthiness of the snails. It’s a tasty dish!
For those of you who’ve never eaten snails but are curious enough to still be reading this post (thank you very much), snails are mollusks. Land mollusks. They are similar in taste and texture to their seafaring cousins–oysters, clams and mussels. If you like any of those, you’re going to like snails and you’re going to love Chargrilled Escargots.
Canned snails and snail shells (which are sold separately) can be purchased online and can also be found on the shelves of most major grocery store chains. Surprisingly enough, Walmart also sells them.
Chargrilled Escargots Recipe
2 4.4-ounce cans extra-large or giant snails
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon Lea & Perrins (Worcestershire sauce)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
24 extra-large cleaned snail shells
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
Rock salt, for plating
French bread, for serving
Prepare grill for direct cooking over high heat. Place escargots in a colander, rinse well under cold running water to remove all traces of brine and grit. Drain and pat dry. In a medium bowl, combine butter and next 10 ingredients (through nutmeg). Pack 1/2 teaspoon butter mixture into each shell and stuff a snail inside (if you have extra snails, you can double up on some of the shells or bake the extras separately in a small ramekin). Seal the shells with more of the butter mixture. Arrange escargots on hot grill, open side up, and cook until butter sizzles and shells begin to char, 3-5 minutes. Top each shell with a generous sprinkle of Asiago cheese. One cheese is melted, transfer escargots to a platter lined with rock salt (for stability) and serve sizzling hot with plenty of French bread. Makes 6-8 appetizer servings.