Snails, snails, escargots: the advance of gourmet shellfish – Italian Cuisine

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In Abruzzo they are called ciamaiche and are consumed with the grandinjie's pizzas. Needless to say, they are as amazing as they are of humble origins, food of the "cafoni" that we find in Fontamara, poor like them and strongly anchored in the traditions. In Paris, ça va sans dire, they are called escargots and, nomen omen, are among the most refined foods ever. In reality they are always earth snails, refined for a long time and, where they weren't, considered gourmet food even thanks to the versatility and charm of vintage. Finally, in Borgo San Dalmazzo, near Cuneo, there is a fair dedicated to snails. It's called Fiera Fredda and its queen is in particular the Alpine helix pomatia, bred in the foothills area.

173773All declinations

The most prestigious recipe that concerns them is that of the noble ones escargots à la bourguignonne, but they are also sublime prepared with any type of sauce, from tomato to mushroom sauce, or served with polenta. With butter, parsley, garlic and various sauces, stewed, in tempura: long live the snail and all its variations.

How gourmet is …

Just think that the delicious and refined (in spite of the profession) Vivien / Julia Roberts in the famous Pretty Woman scene set in the gourmet restaurant is grappling with the escargots and the difficult cutlery. In fact, gourmets are more and more crazy about these shellfish that can also be enjoyed in a delicious setting caviar derived from their eggs, not to mention that from them precious burr you can make cosmetics and even, if you wish, a refined strawberry sorbet.

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Two numbers

As one of our articles titled Slowly, the snails advance and they advance because they are good, but also because they are eco-friendly thanks to their very low emissions, they can be nourished with vegetable waste and therefore have a beneficial effect on the environment and have a high nutritional value. many high quality protein and minerals, massive doses of B12, low fat and many amino acids and vitamins. So much so that in just 10 years production has increased by 452 percent and Italy alone contributes 10 percent to all world consumption.

The most famous (and valuable) species

Helix aspersa Muller and Helix aspersa Maxima (larger) are the two species of snails typical of the Mediterranean area and, therefore, the most raised. In Sicily, a company biologically raises a new species, the Helix aspersa Muller Madonita, the blessed fruit of a daring cross between native Sicilian snails and French snails.

173767The rituality of cleaning

Behind their cleaning there is an art, also because it is obviously a delicate moment and a crucial passage, even if not exactly cruelty free.

There are those who leave them in cages for more than a week on an empty stomach, those who put them in a large wicker basket with salad and sawdust to let them out, those who still leave them alive among pieces of bread.

Surprising in all cases (or perhaps not surprising at all) that the snails have crossed centuries and centuries of gastronomic history, slow but inexorable to enrich aristocratic or humble tables.

Witness the great book of French cuisine by Auguste Escoffier, the Artusi, the Cucchiaio d’Argento and even Marco Gavio Apicius, at the turn of the birth of Christ, gastronomist, cook and writer who wrote the De re coquinaria.

Emanuela Di Pasqua,
April 2019

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