Mention French cuisine and it automatically conjures up many dishes, including the classic Escargot bourguignon, the escargot recipe which is included in Le Cordon Bleu® Recipes from MasterCook. But there’s much more to snails than just the classics, as we learned from talking with Doug Dussault, a.k.a “the Snailman.”
Dussault is an alumni of Le Cordon Bleu® Paris who discovered Wild Burgundy Snails while working in a Paris restaurant. He is now the owner of the Potironne Company, which imports Wild Burgundy Snails, providing them to restaurants, gourmet shops and the public. MasterCook was excited to talk with Dussault about his experience with this special ingredient.
MasterCook: Can you tell us about what makes the Wild Burgundy Snail so desirable compared to farmed snails or other types of snails?
Doug Dussault: Also known as the Roman Snail—a reference to its place in the Roman diet millennia ago—or Vineyard Snail, the Helix Pomatia is the most prized of the 116 edible varieties of Helix snail. Sustainably harvested for hundreds of years, and a protected species throughout Europe (Least Concern), it is also quite temperamental and delicate.
It does not take well to farming, and I am not aware of any successful commercial farming operations. Besides, true among most foods, limited human intervention yields better results. Free range, cage-free, and wild proteins particularly display a certain terroir; nuances of their environment. This is true of the Wild Burgundy Snail, too.
In nature, the Helix Pomatia observes seasonality in its diet, and will stroll right past, say, wild asparagus in September. Commercial farming—the Helix Aspersa, also known as the Brown or Garden Snail, the invasive species now found through much of California, is the most commonly farmed—on the other hand, relies highly on processed cereals for feed.
Beyond an adulterated diet, farmed snails are also affected behaviorally. Inherent breeding cycles and even hibernation are affected. So many stresses, of course, negatively affect the taste.
MasterCook: Do you think the American palette has become more adventurous and open to dishes like snails since you began your business?
Chef Dussault: I am thrilled with the evolution of the American palette! Across all sectors, there is a profound acceptance of the unique and “bizarre” in food and beverage. It’s really an exciting time. Credit the creativity of Chefs—it always starts in the kitchen. Nationwide, Chefs have pushed for greater availability of high quality, heirloom, organic ingredients and have created market demand. On menus, those same ingredients created interest among diners, then retail markets, and so on. It’s really a wonderful evolution in the U.S. that continues to move forward and is forcing real change at the agricultural level, too.
MasterCook: Can you give us a pro tip on preparing or serving snails?
Doug Dussault: As any Chef will tell you, sourcing the highest quality ingredients is a big part of what we do. Starting with the finest components reflects on the plate. The Wild Burgundy Snail exemplifies this high standard. The perfect protein, it is also the most versatile. So, have fun! Sure, they are delightful draped in the classic compound butter à la bourguignonne, but try them in ravioli, skewered on the grill, in paella, tempura, in sausages, with shellfish, atop flatbread or bone marrow, and the like. Over 16 years I have seen no boundaries.
MasterCook users can start experimenting with snails using the recipe for Wild Burgundy Snail & King Salmon Vol au Vent, with Wild Mushroom Velouté below, provided exclusively to us by Doug Dussault. If you have Le Cordon Bleu® Recipes from MasterCook, this recipe has been automatically added to your online recipe collection and is ready to sync with your desktop version of MasterCook, where it will be added to Le Cordon Bleu® Blog Cookbook.
To aid in your culinary discovery, we have also made special arrangements to have the Potironne Company’s Wild Burgundy Snails made available to MasterCook users directly through the MasterCook store. Experience the best for yourself!
New Classic Escargot Recipe: Wild Burgundy Snail King Salmon Vol au Vent, with Wild Mushroom Velouté
Serves Four, Appetizer
4 Puff Pastry Shells or Vol au Vents, packaged or made from a separate recipe [Note A]
4oz Fresh King Salmon, skin-on, deboned
Rosemary and aged goat cheese
Pesto [B], or Beurre Rouge [C]
Poaching Liquid for Salmon
1 quart of water
1 Cup white wine
Orange & lemon peels
1 tsp. of sea salt
Wild Mushroom Velouté
Snail stock, from one can Wild Burgundy Snails, Petit, Four Dozen
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Water
Mushroom stems, from below [D]
Fresh herbs: rosemary, tarragon, & thyme
3 oz. Smoked Pancetta, small dice
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 medium spring onions (or leeks), large dice
Peeled knob of ginger, maybe 1” square
16 oz. seasonal mushrooms, cleaned, quartered (here, Shitakes & King Trumpets) [E]
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ Cup all-purpose flour
Cumin seeds, bay leaf, sea salt, white pepper
Fresh tarragon, chopped
½ Cup all-purpose flour
Wild Burgundy Snails, Petit, Four Dozen
½ Cup Heavy Cream
Use store-bought puff pastry or make Puff Pastry following the recipe included in MasterCook. You will need to prepare the puff pastry by creating shells or vol au vonts. Choose your desired shape (here, diamonds, rounds, square cups), and bake according to the instructions on the packaging. Set aside.
For the Velouté: In a medium sauce pan, add Snail stock (from one can Wild Burgundy Snails, Petit, Four Dozen), 2 Cups Chicken Stock, 1 Cup Water, Mushroom stems, and bits of fresh rosemary, tarragon and thyme. Bring to a boil, strain through a fine sieve and refrigerate until cold.
To a dry, large sauce pan over medium-low heat, add the pancetta. Render until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Move the lardons to a paper towel to dry. Add olive oil to the rendered fat. Add onions, ginger, and cumin seeds, and toss to coat. Sweat onions gently, 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, and toss. Add the garlic and fennel. Focus these flavors, stirring occasionally, until the pan is nearly dry.
Sift in the flour and reduce heat to low. Stir. Yes, it’s a hot sticky mess, but we’re making a roux without creating more dishes. Be attentive. Scrape the bottom, stir regularly. No coloration. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium, and immediately whisk in one-half of the chilled broth. Gently whisk until smooth, scraping the bottom until clean. Add the remaining broth in halves until the desired consistency. Adjust heat: do not boil, but a very light simmer is appropriate. Add the snails, bay leaf, and heavy cream. Stir. [F] Remove from heat until ready to plate.
For the poached salmon: in a medium sauce pan, combine the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and submerge the salmon. Allow to cook to desired doneness, perhaps 5 minutes. Gently remove salmon to a plate. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, and wipe clean the black fat. Gently pull apart the salmon, following the natural contours of the meat. Refrigerate.
When ready to serve: reheat the puff pastry, and bring the velouté back to medium heat. Gently stir in the salmon, pancetta and tarragon. Remove bay leaf and ginger. Salt & pepper. Spoon into, or over vol au vents. Garnish with ribbons of cheese and a rosemary sprig. [G] To the side, add pesto or beurre rouge as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
A: Use store bought — or make your own using the recipe for Puff Pastry included in MasterCook.
B: Use store purchased — or make your own using the recipe for Pesto included in MasterCook.
C: You can make your own Beurre Rouge by using the recipe for Beurre Blanc included in MasterCook, substituting red wine for white.
D: Don’t be afraid to use a few of those dried mushrooms you’ve got tucked away.
E: The proteins here would work well with Chanterelles. Also Shitakes & King Trumpets are nice.
F: If you find the velouté too thick at this point, simply add more of remaining broth and then chicken stock until desired consistency is reached.
G: For a little splash of color, I also added a brunoise of fresno pepper.