With appetizers on my mind and a new season of the hit television show Mad Men to look forward to, I’ve been flipping through the pages of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin for cocktail party inspiration. The recipe for Lutèce Gambas au Beurre d’Escargot (prawns with snail butter) is one that caught my attention. The original recipe hails from The Lutèce Cookbook by Andre Soltner with Seymour Britchey. Lutèce was a famous and highly praised restaurant in New York back in its day. It opened in the early 1960s and closed after forty-three years of service in 2004.
Oddly, despite it noting ‘beurre d’escargot’, there are no actual snails in the snail butter. To bring the recipe up to date (slightly) I replaced the butter with a mild olive oil. I was also heavy-handed with the Pernod and all too happy to chop shallots and garlic to add to the mix. The prawns are more drenched than coated in this version; either way makes a nibble worthy hors d’oeuvre.
Gambas au Beurre d’Escargot
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature / or 3/4 cup olive oil
1 generous tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1/2 tablespoon anise-flavored liqueur such as Pernod
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
24 freshwater large or jumbo prawns, rinsed in cold water, split and deviened but left in shell
Makes 6 servings
In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the beurre d’escargot until thoroughly blended. Place the cleaned and prepped prawns, shell down, in a gratin dish and cover with the butter (or olive oil) mixture. Place the dish in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 8 minutes. Serve hot.
The dish is easy to whip up and takes very little time to prepare. It makes a wonderful addition to a cocktail menu, and served either with your favorite cocktail or wine, is satisfying enough for a simple but flavorful dinner. For more appetizer ideas to nibble on try Bagna Càuda, a garlic and anchovies recipe. Cheers to happy eating!