We noticed that more and more supermarkets and shops sell snails. Canned, frozen or with garlic butter ready to be cooked in the oven, all very tempting. Snails are high on protein, low on fat, high on minerals, low on calories. A glass of white wine and some crusted bread; what more do you need as a healthy starter?
But before buying snails it’s important to look at the label and find out what kind of snail you’re buying.
The snail used for the classic Escargots de Bourgogne is called Helix Pomatia. It’s protected in many countries. Farming of this snail is not profitable. Excellent taste, expensive and hard to find.
There are three alternatives: Helix Aspera (either the small one called Petit Gris or the large one called Gros Gris) and Helix Lucorum. The last one is considered to be less tasty than the other three, but when prepared well, it’s a very nice, affordable alternative. All three can be farmed.
It could also say Achatina on the label. This is a different kind of land snail, much larger than the first four. It’s taste and texture are okayish.
Sometimes it simply says ‘Escargots’ and ‘Gros’ on the tin. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, it may and it may not. Some companies cook larger (sea) snails, chop these, and sell the chunks as ‘Escargots’. The term ‘Gros’ is supposed to make you think of the Gros Gris. Don’t be fooled: they are rubbery, tasteless and a waste of money.
The classic Escargots de Bourgogne are prepared with butter, garlic and parsley. We like to add a bit of tarragon and a pinch of salt. Traditionally they are served in the shell and you need a tong and a special fork to eat them. The ones we use are from a can, so no special equipment required.
The obvious choice is a glass of Bourgogne: a chardonnay with a touch of oak. The wine must be dry, mineral and medium bodied.
What You Need
- 12 snails
- 2 Snail Plates
What You Do
You could of course buy fresh snails (which makes us think of the amazing market in Valencia! So much choice, such excellent quality. Also various kinds of snails, fresh and alive, obviously, also the Caragolus, the snail that is required when you prepare a traditional Paella Valenciana) but otherwise buy them canned. Remove them from the can, wash carefully with lots of water and set aside.
Chop parsley, tarragon and garlic very fine. Using a fork, combine butter, herbs, garlic and a pinch of salt. Transfer six snails to a snail plate, add a chunk of butter to every snail, transfer the snail plate to an oven at 160 °C or 320 °F for 10 minutes or until boiling hot. Serve the snail plate on a cool plain white plate.