Day 9 French regional Christmas specialities: Escargots persillés

This snail dish is one of France’s most known Christmas recipes…thanks to a 19th-century visiting Russian tsar

A view of snails with garlic parsely butter on a plate
Seven out of ten snails farmed each year are eaten at Christmas
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Every day from December 1-12, The Connexion will be sharing a French regional Christmas speciality. Today we look at escargots persillés from Bourgogne.

What are escargots persillés?

Escargots persillés - escargots à la persillade or escargots à la Bourguignonne - are snails cooked with a special sauce made with parsley (persil). It is one of France’s best known recipes.

The dish was invented in 1815 in honour of Tsar Alexander the First, who was invited to France by then-foreign minister Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.

The minister wanted to impress the tsar by serving a dish that his Russian guest had never tried before and asked chef Antonin Carême to cook something special.

Mr Carême suggested snails simmered in wine but the minister said he wanted something more delicate so the chef proposed cooking snails as he would in Bourgogne where he grew up, with garlic, parsley and butter. The popularity of the recipe was guaranteed by the tsar’s appreciation and recommendation of the dish

Delicate and luxurious, snails gradually became a staple at Christmas tables.

“Snails are a reminder of childhood, family reunions and Christmas. It is unusual to see someone eating 12 of them on their own. It is a meal to be shared,” snail farmer Frédéric Marcouyoux told French TV France 3 Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.

More than two-thirds (70%) of farmed snails are eaten at Christmas, said Mr Marcouyoux.

How do you cook escargots persillés?

Below is a summary of a YouTube video that demonstrates how to cook escargots à la persillade.

First rinse and strain your snails under hot water. Put them in a pan and add water until they are all covered. You can add bay leaves, aniseed and cloves into the water to give it more taste and also whichever herbs you like.

Keep the snails in the water for two minutes and simmer before straining.

Stuff the shells with the persillade, a mixture made of butter, garlic and parsley. You can use garlic butter if you like.

Escargots à la persillade are to be eaten in an escargottier, a special dish composed of six holes designed for snails. You can also butter the holes with the persillade.

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