Escargots à la Bordelaise

For some reason we had booked a hotel in Coutras, some 65 kilometres from Bordeaux. A nice enough city, on the borders of the river Dronne, but not as interesting as nearby city Libourne with its castles, parcs and rivers (the Dordogne and the Isle). In all fairness, we could easily have forgotten our stay at Coutras, if it wasn’t for the dinner at La Table Du Buffet. It was a warm welcome, a nice plat du jour made with lots of local products and served with very nice local wine, obviously.
One of the dishes was Escargots à la Bordelaise, made with small snails. The taste was great although we think the snails could have been cleaner, but that’s a minor detail. The dish was a revelation: not the standard combination of snails, butter, garlic and parsley, but a rich tomato and wine sauce that supported the snails perfectly. Delicious with some crusted bread. We decided to prepare the dish as soon as we were back home.


Buying the right snails is not simple at all. The snail used for the classic Escargots de Bourgogne is called Helix Pomatia. 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.

Sometimes it simply says ‘Escargots’ and ‘Gros’ on the tin. Sounds good, doesn’t it? In most cases these ‘escargots’ are cooked and chopped large (sea) snails. The term ‘Gros’ is supposed to make you think of the Gros Gris. Don’t be fooled: these ‘escargots’ are rubbery, tasteless and a waste of money (and snail).

Fast Snails

And now for the sad part: as you know snails are slow. Very slow. And during winter they are even slower. They simply sleep 3 or 4 or 5 months before becoming active again. Some (most?) farmers are not that patient, so they turn up the light and the heat, pushing the snails towards a faster life, forcing them to skip hibernation and become fast snails.
Even the poor snails are turned into manageable products.
Let’s focus on the honest exception: some farms allow the snails to be slow, to sleep through winter, to be their natural self. Hurray!

Wine Pairing

Given the name of the dish (and the flavours of course) we suggest a red Bordeaux wine. Not too complex, not too expensive. We enjoyed a Côtes de Bordeaux produced by Château Cap Saint Martin in Blaye. In general you’re looking for a red wine with grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Rich in fruit, limited in tannins and acidity.

What You Need

  • 12-18 Snails
  • 50 grams of Pancetta (bacon is also fine)
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • Parsley
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Red Wine
  • Olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Crusted Bread

What You Do

Chop the shallot, the garlic and the parsley. Slice the pancetta. Warm a heavy iron skillet. Gently fry the shallot. After a few minutes add the garlic. Add the pancetta and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce, some red wine, the chopped parsley and allow to reduce, thicken and integrate, let’s say 15 minutes. Longer is fine; the consistency of the sauce is important. Add snails and cook for 10 minutes on a very low heat. Serve immediately with crusted bread.

Escargots à la Bordelaise ©cadwu
Escargots à la Bordelaise ©cadwu

Quails and Snails in a Green Sauce

Many years ago we were looking for a place to eat in Fréjus. It was our last evening in France before returning home and obviously we were looking for something special, something typical Provençal. The area of our hotel wasn’t very promising, so we were ready to settle for pizza until we saw a small restaurant with a very interesting menu. It offered Tisane de RomarinCailles et Escargots and many other exciting dishes we unfortunately can’t remember. We entered the restaurant and had a perfect evening.

Combining quails and snails isn’t the most obvious idea, but rest assured, it works beautifully, also thanks to the very intriguing green sauce. It took us some time to make the sauce as it should be, but after a few attempts we think this is the right bridge between the quails and the snails.

Of course, we made a note of the name of the restaurant and of course, we lost it. A pity, although preparing this dish brings us back to a lovely evening in Fréjus.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy your Quails and Snails with a glass of Bourgogne: a chardonnay with a touch of oak. The wine must be dry, mineral and medium bodied. We enjoyed a glass of Bourgogne as produced by Louis Jadot. The wine partly matured in stainless steel tanks and partly in oak barrels. The result is a wine that has citrus and apple aromas in combination with oak and vanilla. Great with the freshness of the herbs and the richness of the sauce. It balances very well with both the quails and the snails. Two sides to everything in this dish!

What You Need

  • 2 Quails 
  • 6 Snails (click here when you want to know which snail to buy)
  • For the Sauce
    • 1 Bunch of Parsley
    • ½ Bunch of Tarragon
    • A few Leaves of Young Spinach
    • Cream
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Olive Oil
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Wash the snails with plenty of water. Set aside. Clean the quails. Best is to use the breasts only. (You could also serve the legs, provided you remove the main bone. It’s a bit of extra work, also for your guests.) Make sure you have a warm heavy iron skillet ready and a small pan with warm vegetable stock. Set your oven to 60 °C or 140 °F.

Blanch parsley, tarragon and spinach in boiling water and cool immediately in ice water. Blender parsley, tarragon and spinach with some ice water until you have a very smooth green liquid. Set your blender to turbo! Press using a sieve and store the green liquid. It will remain stable for at least an hour.

Fry the breasts quickly in olive oil. Warm the snails in the vegetable stock. Transfer the breasts to the warm oven. Clean the pan with kitchen paper, add cream and chicken stock. Let reduce for 5-10 minutes or until you’re happy with the consistency. Add liquid from the quails. Stir and taste. Perhaps some white pepper? Add green liquid until you have the right colour and taste. Be very careful, if you overheat the sauce it will lose its vibrant green colour. Serve the breasts and the snails in the sauce.

Quails and Snails in a Green Sauce ©cadwu
Quails and Snails in a Green Sauce ©cadwu