As in a treasure hunt map, here’s a drawing explaining the dish that Franco Aliberti presents in the series of 5 recipes we’re dedicating to snails
What would you like to find at the end of a treasure hunt? Gold doubloons and jewels, perhaps. At restaurant La Preséf, instead, the treasure hidden inside a crispy onion sphere and under a cover of potatoes is a snail. Franco Aliberti hides this extraordinary product as if it were a surprise, so as to win the prejudgement and fears of those who say they don’t love snails without having ever tasted them. Contrary to Marco Sacco who loves them for the reason they can evoke youth and childhood memories, Franco chose them as a treasure in this original search. Indeed they are a real gift of the earth, one of the most sustainable animal products. They’re the ones that require less natural resources, don’t pollute and offer great benefits to the territory.
Even Luca, of Azienda Agricola La Fattoria delle Lumache, a small family-run organic farm, agrees with Franco. For two years now he’s betting everything on this gastropod mollusc on the hills above Rimini.
The interesting thing, should you decide to get into the snail business in the near future, is that knowing the food industry is not enough, as the meat you get from snails can be used as food but also for cosmetics and medications. This means mastering three different industries, each with its rules.
The most important choice, however, says Luca, is between intensive farming, usually in greenhouses, and organic and in open fields. In the latter case, as usual, the yield is lower but you can taste the difference. Luca grows different types of chards, menthol and other wild herbs so as to feed the snails. These are sold only at the end of their lives, that is to say after around two years, and they never use pesticides or other synthetic products.
It’s no coincidence that Franco chose these very snails so that one of the most debased ingredients in the last decades would become the deserved reward at the end of the Treasure Hunt.
Recipe for 2 people
Puffed onion crust
First of all, prepare a cream of white onions: place 200g of onions on a baking tin without peeling them. Cover them with tin foil and bake them at 185°C for around 1 hour. Peel the onions and blend them so as to create a purée. Knead the following ingredients for a few minutes:
50 g 00 flour
25 g onion cream
4g extra virgin olive oil
When the dough is smooth and homogenous, chill it in the fridge. Roll it out so it is thin and place on the vent of a thermoblower (it’s like a hair drier but reaches 630°C) and action it until the cooking is complete. The thermoblower will cook the dough making it blow as a bubble. Draw an X on the crust using the vegetable cream.
Potato and garlic cream
100 g yellow potatoes
22 g cream aromatised in a vacuum pack with garlic
18 g vegetable stock
2 g extra virgin olive oil
1 g salt
8 g sugar
5 g malt
Cook the potatoes in water, drain them and blend them with the other ingredients while still hot. Strain them and keep in a syphon. Charge and keep warm until it’s time to serve.
Clean 10 snails for 4-5 days before cooking them. Rinse them in water and vinegar. Boil them in salted water with a few bay leaves. Drain them and leave them to cool. Using a stick, remove them from the shell. Close in a vacuum bag with a little oil and cook in water at 74°C for 12 hours.
Apples with calvados
Dice a “ponte” apple and leave it to marinate in Calvados for 5 minutes.
- extract the juice of the parsley using both stalks and leaves.
- keep part of the juice to a side
- use the rest to prepare the glaze
10 g parsley juice (made from the extractor, using the stalks too)
10 g water
8 g extra virgin olive oil
1 g xantana
Mix all the ingredients. Leave to rehydrate, then strain and keep in the fridge
To finish the dish
- a few scales of fresh truffle
- a few drops of truffle oil
- 2 teaspoons of snail eggs
Presenting the dish
In a pan, melt a teaspoon of butter, slowly cook the snails for 3 minutes, season with salt and pepper and add the parsley glaze so it envelops the snails. Place on the base of the dish, cover with a few scales of truffle, some drops of truffle oil, the diced apple, the warm cream of potatoes, the snail eggs and close with the puffed onion crust.
Tecniche, ingredienti e iniziative della ristorazione attenta all'ambiente e agli ideali di Expo 2015, viste da Lisa Casali
Environmental scientist and sustainable cooking expert, she's the author of blog Ecocucina on D di Repubblica and of 5 books including “Tutto fa brodo”, "Autoproduzione in cucina" and "Cucinare in lavastoviglie"