Snails on the menu: French tradition with a fresh twist18-10-2018
Snails are still as popular today whether cooked the traditional way or starring in an original dish prepared by young chefs determined to give gastropods a new lease of life.
Snails : a very French passion
Escargots de Bourgogne, aka Bourgogne Snails, are one of France’s favourite foods. France’s penchant for these aptly named “gastropods” dates back to the Renaissance and although originally the preserve of the most well-heeled, today their consumption is generally widespread. And if you are wondering what all the fuss is about, snails taste great, cooked traditionally they are very easy to make, and they won’t break the bank. The French are unsurprisingly the world’s biggest snail consumers, eating their way through 16,000 tonnes every year. The French also breed, process and export their snail production.
The ever popular, traditional Escargot au beurre persillé
The recipe for snails cooked in herb and garlic butter has not wavered since the day it originated. “Customers go out of their way for this traditional recipe for snails with herb butter and shallots,” explains Denis Petit, snail farmer. To prepare, the snails are first cooked in stock. Meanwhile, garlic, shallots, butter and parsley are mixed together to make a herb butter, which gives the snails their distinctive flavour. The snails are then “rehoused” in their shells, together with the herb butter, and oven-cooked for 10 minutes at around 160°C. It’s such an easy recipe for Christmas and New Year, which is when the French traditionally savour their delights.
Snails jump on the food-truck bandwagon
Interestingly, in recent years snails are no longer all about Christmas and New Year dining and are starting to feature readily on French plates and even on the streets! Denis Petit, who runs Escargotiere Bourguignonne snail farm, took the giant leap of serving his snails on his food truck. “We serve them the traditional way. It works best with a glass of Chablis,” explains the producer who makes his own snails in herb butter. He travels the festival circuit with his food truck and it seems to work well where ever he goes. “The French are already accustomed, but the reaction of foreigners is quite something. They often start by asking what it is, and once tasted, come back for more!” The Agricultural Fair in Paris next February will also be the occasion to try this typically French delicacy.
When snails are back in fashion in Paris restaurants
Snails have been an integral part of Parisian restaurant culture since the dawn of time, served by the half-dozen or dozen on menus around the capital. They are also making an appearance in Paris’s most recent establishments. Eminent food writer Frédérick Ernestine Grasser Hermé, and creator of l’Amicale du gras, gave snails a distinctively modern twist for L’Escargot Montorgueuil in Paris, serving them with truffles, foie gras, curry sauce and even Roquefort cheese.