Escargots à la Provence

Snails Simmered in Herbs and Wine

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • As an appetizer for

    6

    People

Appears in

The Cuisine of the Sun

By Mireille Johnston

Published 1990

  • About

Throughout France snail hunting, la chasse aux escargots, is one of the children’s favorite pastimes.* Snails are gathered right after a rainfall in wire baskets and kept there or in cages for two weeks, and are fed only flour or chaff so that their systems are purged of all the unpleasant slime. Before cooking they are rinsed in vinegar or water. In Marseilles entire meals of snails, caracolades, are served, and in marketplaces cooked snails are often sold as snacks in paper cones.

In the South of France there are two kinds of escargots: les blanquettes, which are whitish and plump, and les petits gris (cantareu in Nice), which are striped gray and white and served with aïoli monstre or a strong tomato and red pepper sauce.

Snails can also be the base of an omelet. Here is a Provençal recipe that can be used for either kind of snails. For a main course, double all the ingredients. In Provence peasants eat snails with a straight pin. Here aluminum snail dishes and forks can be bought to set a more elegant table.

* Since snail hunting seems to be unheard-of in America, children might hunt for periwinkles instead. These tiny sea snails are easily found and gathered on most rocky beaches on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Because they are so small, you will need quite a few.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 dozen canned snails
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • ½ teaspoon fennel or anise seed
  • bouquet garni
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs (preferably homemade)

Method

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the snails but not the shells. Sauté them for 2 minutes over a medium flame, tossing with a wooden spoon. Add the shallots, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 tablespoon parsley, and salt and pepper. Cook 2 more minutes, stirring gently. Add the wine, fennel, and bouquet garni. Cover, lower the flame, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove snails with a slotted spoon. Reserve snails and wine sauce.

Preheat the broiler. Place the empty snail shells in a baking dish and put a snail and 1 teaspoon of wine sauce in each shell. Sprinkle on each snail some bread crumbs, crushed garlic, parsley, and olive oil. Broil for 3 minutes. Serve immediately with plenty of French bread and a dry white wine.

Variation

Simply sauté the snails with herbs and garlic and serve as is, comme ça. Or serve them with hot tomato sauce or aïoli.