Burgundy Snails

Petits Gris à la Bourguignonne

Last week, Maxence and I were at the Poissonnerie Bleue, the fish market at the bottom of the rue des Martyrs, a.k.a. fish lover’s paradise : they have a very wide and very tempting selection of sea food. It is always pretty crowded, but the service is friendly and fast. As we were standing in line to pay, we noticed they also sold frozen garlic snails, so we promptly bought two dozens.

Petits gris (literally “small gray”) are a variety of snails, much smaller than their cousins the “Escargots de Bourgogne”. They are often prepared “à la Bourguignonne” : boiled, seasoned with garlic parsley butter, and served as a first course, in their shell.

A few days later, we had them for dinner : Maxence laid them out in a small metal dish, and put them in the oven to bake for about twenty minutes. We would like to buy some of those special plates with six or twelve hollows in which to put the snails, but so far haven’t found any that we liked.

When the butter was nice and bubbling, we took the snails out and ate them. Here’s how you do it. Prepare a bite of warm crusty bread. Hold a petit gris shell in your left hand – in restaurants, you may be expected to use a special snail tong, but we don’t have any, and your left hand will work fine. With your right hand, use a cute little snail pick to drag the petit gris out of hiding. Do this slowly, because as the last curl of petit gris suddenly comes out of the shell, garlic herb butter may splutter on your shirt. Put down the shell, pick up the bite of bread and deposit the petit gris on it. Put down the pick, pick up the shell, and pour the garlic butter that remains inside onto the bread. Gobble up. Moan at the salty crusty garlicky chewy sensation. Repeat while supplies last.

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