A week before cooking your snails, put them into a box or purpose made cage, with some yellow cornmeal (polenta flour) in the bottom. They will feed with cornmeal and clean themselves from eventual impurities they may have been eating while roaming in the garden.
I have used a large plastic box and made some holes on the top. Every couple of days I cleaned the box, briefly showered the snails with the hose and then put them back in the box with a new layer of cornmeal.
The day of the cooking, put the snails into a colander and rinse them well, under fresh running water.
Take a large pan full of water, bring the water to the boil and throw the snails straight into the pan.
Simmer for 10 minutes and remove any scum that come to the surface.
After 10 minutes boiling, take the snail out of the pan, using a large slotted spoon. Do this gently to avoid breaking the shells.
Place the snails in a colander.
Using a tooth stick or a barbecue stick, take the snails out of their shells. They will easily come out.
The picture shows all the empty shells (at the back) and the snail meat in front. At this stage, the snails are not ready yet; we need to remove the intestine (not edible) from the foot (edible part), which is the part of the snail you see when they are alive moving around in the garden.
Use a sharp scissor to separate the intestine (left of the scissor) from the foot (right of the scissor).
The picture shows the edible snail meat on the right side and the intestines on the left side. Discard the intestines.
Rinse the snail edible meat under fresh running water. Then, pat the meat dry using kitchen paper.
Take a container, spread some cornmeal into the container and add the meat to it.
Coat all the meat with cornmeal and then gently rub the meat between your hands. This operation will further clean the meat from eventual slime residue.
Rinse again, under fresh running water, to get rid of the cornmeal coating the meat.
Put the meat into a container and cover with white wine vinegar.
Add some salt and leave to marinade for 2 or 3 hours.
Then rinse the meat again under fresh running water and set aside.
Roughly chop the vegetables given for the court bouillon.
Fill a pan with cold water. Then, add the vegetables given for the court bouillon and the meat.
Add the wine into the pan.
Bring the liquid to a gentle boil and simmer for about 1 hour. For me, the simmering time was only 1 hour because I had small snails. For big chunky snails you may need 2 or 3 hours.
After the simmering, remove the pan content from the liquid and then separate the meat from the vegetable. Discard the vegetables. Put the meat in a container, cover with cling film and set aside.
Now, wash the spinach leaves.
The pictures shows the spinach leaves after I have put them through the salad spinner to get rid of the water.
Roughly chop the spinach.
Now, take a large saucepan so that it can contain all the spinach. Initially the spinach will take up lots of space, but after few minutes cooking it will shrink considerably. Put the olive oil and the butter into the pan and heat the two fats over medium heat.
Add the onion.
Add the garlic clove (crushed) and sweat off until the onion is lightly golden in colour. Later you will remove the garlic, if you want.
Add the meat into the pan.
Sweat off the meat for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the tomato purée.
Add the spinach.
Cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes over low heat.
After 20 minutes, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper according to taste.
Then, add the parsley and give it a good stir. Cook for another 20 minutes.
This is the finished results, after a total of 45 minutes. With bigger snails you can stretch this cooking time to 60 minutes.
This is the final dish, where I have served the snails and spinach with some grilled polenta. This is a rustic dish, so be ready to drink half a litre of good red wine.