escargots a la bourguignonne


I have often joked about how a key to a great tasting meal is one simple ingredient – butter. Well, I think if anything proves me right, it’s escargots – where I think about 60% of the dish is melted, herb butter. And while my parents shudder at the idea of people eating snails, KS and I are quite content not only consuming the snail part of this dish, but also the garlicky butter that remains thereafter. For that, plenty of baguette slices are perfect sponges – they sop up the fragrant, golden “sauce” perfectly!

We wanted to make this dish for so long, but lacked those fancy escargots dishes. The mere fact that we purchased them, tells you of our immense love for these snails. We have a rule in the kitchen – most items that serve one purpose only are banned. Thus, no bagel slicers or egg cookers – with the humble apple slicer being one exception. But escargots dishes – we were powerless against their draw. And yet, having now made the escargots at home, I’d like to save you all the expense and tell you a less refined, but no less effective or delicious way to make this dish at home.

Okay, ready? [The proportions of things are below based on a recipe from 1949(!!!), a time before the evils of cholesterol were discovered, and butter was revered. The paragraph below is just my layman’s instructions.]

Get a oven-proof bowl. Put some snails in it. Put enough of the garlicky mixture to cover the snails and so that when the butter melts, the snails are sort of swimming, or luxuriating, if you will, in the buttery pool. Place dish in the oven for 5-7 minutes according to the instructions below. There, this is the un-fancy, cheap, i-don’t-need-no-fancy-dish-to-make-escargots way. In fact, I have a feeling that the very first escargots were probably made this way. I mean, who had the foresight to design those fancy dishes? There, I just saved you $40 or so on the cookware, though the escargots themselves will run you about $18 a can, but there’s like 60 of them in there – and they don’t keep long.

So run along and throw an escargots party already (you know you want to!)- and be sure to invite KS and me!

shamefully easy...

Gourmet | January 2006; originally published 1949

1 small garlic clove
3/8 teaspoon table salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced shallot
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dry white wine
12 to 16 snails* (from a 7- to 8-oz can)
About 2 cups kosher salt (for stabilizing snail shells)

Special equipment: 12 to 16 sterilized escargot shells*
Accompaniment: French bread


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

Using a heavy knife, mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1/8 teaspoon table salt.

Beat together butter, shallot, garlic paste, parsley, remaining 1/4 teaspoon table salt, and pepper in a small bowl with an electric mixer until combined well. Beat in wine until combined well.

Divide half of garlic butter among snail shells. Stuff 1 snail into each shell and top snails with remaining butter. Spread kosher salt in a shallow baking dish and nestle shells, butter sides up, in salt.

Bake snails until butter is melted and sizzling, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve immediately.

Cooks’ notes:

The escargots can be prepared, but not baked, up to 30 minutes ahead and kept at room temperature until ready to bake.

If you don’t have an escargot serving dish, serve the snails on a bed of kosher salt (to stabilize shells) on a platter.


  • Lisa (Homesick Texan)

    I love escargot–the more garlic and butter the better! Did you get the escargot tongs, too? And while I don’t usually buy single-use items either, I’ve been tempted lately by some cute deviled-egg platters.

  • radish

    No, I didn’t even know they existed, but what a riot, I just found them on Sur La Table! They were those things Julia Roberts had to use in Pretty Woman!

  • Kate

    So I’ve been meaning to ask somebody this for awhile, and now maybe you can clear it up for me: what kind of snails are escargots? Are they sea snails? Garden snails? DO you have to buy them canned or frozen? What are the snails I see in baskets in Chinatown, and can I make escargots from them?
    Okay, maybe that was several questions. Please enlighten!

  • ann

    Uhm, Oh Hell Yeah! I never thought of just cooking them in butter without the fancy pants dishes. Thanks! Have you ever read the MFK Fisher essay on harvesting snails in Burgundy? Hilarious, and sad, and delicious. God she was a good writer.

  • radish

    Kate, i did a little digging (no pun intended) and found out that escargots are a common garden snail is the European brown — Helix aspersa, in Latin. However, I read in another source that catching them wild might expose you to a rare strain of menengitis and I am not sure if the garden variety is considered wild. I bought a can @ Dean & Deluca, i’m sure specialty stores carry them also. Hopefully this helps. Let me know if you have other questions. :)
    Nina, thank you so much. Hope you will be back!! Your blog is great too, love the composition!
    Ann, to my great shame, i haven’t read much MFK Fisher, even though i have the complete The Art of Eating on my bookshelf — I just haven’t gotten around to it :( I might check it out this weekend – you have just inspired me. And yeah, cooking them in an oven-proof bowl will definitely do the trick!

  • robin

    I’ve never tried snails (I’m a horrible “foodie”!!) but these are truly tempting me to go spend so much on a can. And you’ve just got to read MFK, she’s wonderful before bed reading!

  • radish

    Robin, they really are wonderful – and the butter is what makes it all worth while (when does butter make things worse?) But in all seriousness, you may not want to try something or like something that is commonly perceived as a delicacy and that too is okay. Clearly you are very open to trying things and have branched out – if you happen to be revolted by the thought of having snails, that’s cool :) I happen to be very eh on the whole truffle idea – i don’t care for their flavor at all. I suppose the upside is all the money I can save in the process. As for MFK Fisher, I have to find this book in storage and then I’m all over it!

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