Basil Risotto with Escargot is a delicious combination of tender canned snails, fresh basil "pesto" and creamy risotto. It can be ready in 30 minutes or less.
The story behind Basil Risotto with Escargot
Hi y'all. Did you miss me last week? I was busily eating my way around the world at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in Orlando. This is the 3rd year BB and I have attended this event, with BB doing wine seminars as well as working with chefs doing food and wine pairing seminars, and me, just tagging along and enjoying the food and drink. It's so much fun and so much food. One of our culinary visits was to the land of France where we enjoyed some Escargot in the shells with garlic butter. Not exactly on the "diet" but we walked a lot, and it was hot and humid, so we worked (sweated?) it off.
snails are only 20 calories per dozen AND zero fat.
On another recent trip, BB brought me home a can of ready-to-use snails. I'm sorry, I mean escargot. Well, truthfully, the can does say snails and escargot by any other name is simply a cleaned-up snail.
I may have mentioned before, the man does like to challenge me.
On yet another separate occasion, while dining with my son, the soon to be GRADUATE of the Collins School of Hospitality Management on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona, and his host family for his summer job at the Rosewood Resort in Palo Alto, one of our dishes was a delicious Green Basil Risotto.
OK, you might wonder, where the heck is this story going...
Many common garden snails are edible. They don't have to be a French snail. But regardless of where your live snail comes from, it must be cleansed. Purged of all the garbage snails are known to slither through. And their slime. In France, many are cleansed on grape leaves, which makes a lot of sense. Snails are also often cleaned on herbs, basil being one of the most popular herbs to use. So I thought, why not put one of the popular purging methods, basil, together with one of my favorite dishes, risotto, and make a Basil Risotto with Escargot (snail)?
And so I did.
If at first you fail, try try again
My first pass on this dish was a disaster. Well, it was edible, but not blog-worthy. I knew I could do better. The first pass, I tried to combine the basil with the stock to cook the risotto. The result was basil flavor so muted you could hardly taste it. And the color, well, let's just go with not pretty. So for this rendition, I decided to cook the risotto first and do more of a pesto style for the basil part. Since I was going to sauté the snails in garlic butter, I decided not to use garlic in the basil pesto, only a bit of what I would normally finish a risotto off with anyway, some parmesan cheese, a little extra virgin olive oil (in place of that pat of butter) and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. This time it was perfect.
Snails, canned or fresh?
While I love the convenience of canned snails, you could actually go out into your own garden and harvest them for yourself. How to clean them is well explained in this article from Mother Earth News. Snails, or do you prefer escargot? are actually very high in protein, while being low in both fat and calories. As a matter of fact, they are 15% protein, 2.4% fat, and 80% water. Depending on their preparation, they can be slightly chewy, although these particular snails were very tender, with a subtle earthy flavor.
As always, I prepared my risotto in the pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Why not? It's convenient, economical (2 cups broth as compared to 6 - 8 cups) fast, and 90% handsfree. My kind of risotto. If you don't want to use a pressure cooker, electric or otherwise, you can cook your risotto with either of these methods; my recipe for Black Pepper Risotto is practically handsfree, and this recipe for Red Wine Rosemary Risotto not only explains the steps for both pressure cooker and the "old fashioned" methods but explains why I prefer pressure cooker risotto.
Because there is so much flavor in the basil "pesto" and the snails cooking method, I made a very plain risotto. Shallot, extra virgin olive oil, arborio rice, my favorite white wine, vermouth, and low-sodium chicken stock. I like to use vermouth instead of white wine as I find the flavor is always consistent. White wines can go from floral, to oaky, to sweet, to dry. White vermouth is, white vermouth. And it's a bargain. I can buy a bottle of vermouth for $2.99 to $3.99 in most markets. Find a decent wine at that price point. I'll bet you can't.
So are you ready to try some Basil Risotto with Escargot? I hope you do. It's really good.
Wine Recommendation: A Burgundian style Chardonnay is, of course, the perfect choice. A second choice would be a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
Basil Risotto with Escargot
- For the Basil "Pesto"
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves lightly packed
- 1- ounce grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- For the Risotto
- ¼ cup finely chopped shallot
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup arborio or other short-grain Italian rice
- ½ cup vermouth or dry white wine
- 2 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth find the kind without a bunch of aromatics
- For the Escargot
- ½ can small snails - about 2 dozen freeze the rest for another time if using a larger snail, cut them in half
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- And as always salt and pepper
- Prepare the Basil "Pesto": Place the basil leaves in the work bowl of a food processor; pulse, using on/off pulses until chopped, then add the parmesan along with the olive oil, pulse together until it is finely chopped. Add the lemon juice, pulse one or two times. Set-aside.
- Prepare the Risotto This method is for using a pressure cooker. For other cooking methods refer to the links on the intro.Heat the oil over medium heat; when hot add the shallots, rice, and a pinch of salt. Sauté for about 4 - 5 minutes, or until the rice is translucent. Add the vermouth and allow it to evaporate, while stirring constantly. Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer. Lower heat to maintain a simmer and put the lid onto the cooker. Once it has reached pressure, cook for 7 minutes. Release the pressure using the quick-release method (place the pot under cold running water). Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice has reached the consistency you prefer. I like mine to be a little moist, but not swimming. You can adjust the creaminess with additional stock if it gets too dry.
- Prepare the Escargot: While the risotto is cooking, heat the butter in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, add the garlic along with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook, for about 1 minute, then shut off the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes - this will ensure the garlic flavor is infused into the butter, without worry about burning the garlic. Turn the heat back on and when hot, add the snails. Stir around in the hot garlic butter until the snails are hot. Stir in the parsley.
- To Finish: Once the risotto is, stir in the basil pesto. Top with the seasoned snails. Serve in wide warmed bowls. Top with a bit of lemon zest, if desired.