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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

ASPARAGUS TIPS: In Moscow, We Can Do Better Than 'Le Big Mac'




The World Cup finals are well under way, and those who relied on courage to overcome the odds of lengthy pedigree are gone, taking with them only memories.


The memories are inevitably mixed. The off-field memory of this cup that I find most interesting is the organizers' choice of "official restaurant." With its enormous culinary prestige at stake, the French chose wisely -- McDonald's.


Unfortunately, I don't have the exact recipe for that flagship French dish, Le Big Mac and fries, so I have searched for others that could be described as intrinsically French.


While browsing at Diplomat, I found frog legs and snails.


The first time I tried frog legs I did so with trepidation. My previous experience with frogs had been in laboratory experiments. My biology teacher didn't mention that with far less formaldehyde they could form a nice entree. Their flavor was interesting, light and delicate -- a little reminiscent of chicken.


While traveling in the Australian bush, I had tried witchetty grub roasted on a shovel over an open fire. The witchetty grub, larva of a variety of moths and beetles, grows up to 12 centimeters long and 2 centimeters thick. They are a rich source of iron and, being up to 35 percent fat, roast quite nicely. I admit that I have not searched them out since, but the experience had prepared me for my first restaurant encounter with snails.


The snails were served in traditional fashion -- in their shells with garlic butter. The utensils were useful and the garlic butter was superb. The snails were another matter. They were almost tasteless. I couldn't help feeling sorry for those other creatures who rely on snails for a substantial part of their diet.


Of those still wishing to try snails, the preparation is simple. Those in tins are cooked and accompanied by shells. You should remove the snails from the tin and drain. Place a little beurre ? la Bourguignon in each shell, drop in a snail and fill with more butter. Arrange the snails on a dish with the opening upward (a special snail dish is best) and place in an oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 7 to 8 minutes -- just until the butter starts to sizzle. Overcooked, they become tough and chewy. Serve immediately.


Beurre ? la Bourguignon is prepared by placing in a bowl 350 grams of butter, 30 grams of finely chopped shallots, 10 grams of crushed and finely chopped garlic, 20 grams chopped parsley and a few grinds of cracked pepper. Mix well. You can cover the bowl and keep in the refrigerator while you catch your snails.


Frog legs (les jambes des grenouilles) are prepared in a similar manner to fish. For something a little different, try British writer and cooking teacher Prue Leith's recipe with rosemary and ginger.


Mix together 45 grams butter, a large pinch of ground ginger, a small piece of peeled, chopped ginger root, a sprig of finely chopped fresh rosemary, 1/2 clove crushed garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Spread this mixture over the (defrosted) frog legs. Fry the frog legs in a little butter. They should just take on a little color. Add 150 milliliters dry white wine and simmer for 7 minutes. If necessary, add a little water.


Remove the frog legs and keep warm. Bring the sauce to a boil and, whisking constantly, reduce until slightly thickened. Pour over the frog legs and serve.


Diplomat, 63 Bolshaya Gruzinskaya Ulitsa. Tel: 251-2589. Metro: Belorusskaya.