Snails in the Skillet with Olive Oil, Vinegar and Rosemary (Hohlioi Boubouristoi)
This is probably the best known snail dish in Crete and a meze par excellence for either wine or tsikouthia (fire water). It is also the only recipe that does not call for blanching the snails before cooking them. There are two stories regarding the provenance of the name: according to some Cretan cooks, it is onomatopoeia for the crackling sound the snails make upon contact with the hot salt; others, however, say it comes from the Cretan word “abouboura”, which means face-side down.
- 1 1/2 pounds / 750 gr large snails membrane removed and washed well
- 2 – 3 tablespoons salt
- 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup strong red wine vinegar
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1. In a large, heavy nonstick skillet spread 2-3 tablespoons salt evenly over the surface. Heat over medium flame.
2. Place the snails, open side down, over the salt. As soon as the snails stop sizzling, add the olive oil and stir for about 3-5 minutes.
3. Pour in the vinegar and add the rosemary sprigs. Cover the skillet and cook another three or four minutes, over low heat. Remove and serve piping hot in a deep bowl, with all the pan juices.
How to clean snails:
Scrape the shells clean. Using a sharp paring knife, remove and discard the thin membrane covering the snail's opening. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and blanch the snails for two or three minutes. Remove and rinse well. Proceed as directed in individual recipes. Blanching them helps rid them of their thick saliva.