A French Christmas recipe for a cool yule | Snails in garlic butter

Written by on December 1, 2017 in Christmas Markets, My French Life, Starters

Snails, olives and cheeses at a Christmas market in Paris

It’s very nearly time for festive fun and fa la la as Christmas is almost upon on us. To spread the Christmas cheer, I’ve teamed up with Titan Travel for their ’12 Days of Blogmas’ to bring you my recipe for snails in garlic butter, a Christmas favourite in France, inspired by the markets of Paris.

Christmas in France is all about the food and in Paris the stalls at Christmas markets are piled high with delicious dishes from the cheesiest of cheeses to meaty feasts and gorgeous gateaux.

It’s not surprising that in the country where gastronomy has been raised to UNESCO status, so important a part of the national heritage is it, that at times of celebration, food is firmly at the forefront of every festive occasion (and try saying that after a glass of Champagne).

Sparkling Eiffel TowerParis – city of fairy lights

I’m a Christmas market fan, I love the razzmatazz, the lights, the happy atmosphere. I love the kitsch gifts and the beautiful arts and crafts goods made by artisans. But mostly I love the fact that at the Christmas markets there are always stalls with scrumptious specialities from around France. Tartiflette from Haute Savoie, Agen prunes, olives and crystalised fruit from Provence, nougat from Montelimar and loads more. The sights are mouth-wateringly tempting and the scents can stop you in your tracks.

For me, Paris is one of the most fabulous destinations for Christmas cheer. Not just the city of lights at this time of the year, it’s the city of fairy lights as the streets and buildings twinkle under the watchful eye of the Eiffel Tower, the queen of sparkle.

There are a dozen or so Christmas markets in Paris and one of my favourites is a little bit off the beaten tourist track, but don’t let that fool you.

La Defense business district in Paris at Christmas looking very festive!

In the uber modern La Défense business district, spread over 10,000 square metres are 350 stands offering a taste of festive France from arts and crafts, gourmet food, mulled wine, games and Christmas decorations. And snails. I cannot resist a stall full of tasty snails ready to heat and serve. The smell of the garlic that fills the kitchen, the sizzle as they come out of the oven, the look on my guests faces when I pop them on the table to share – priceless.

Snails in garlic butter at Christmas

Dish of snails in garlic butter

Snails in garlic butter are the ultimate French appetiser and they’re actually quite easy to prepare at home. You can cook and serve them in shells but I like them cooked in a special snail gratin dish. If you don’t have one, use an oven proof dish to suit.

Ingredients for 2

100g Unsalted Butter
2 Garlic cloves finely minced (if you’re a real fan of garlic – add another clove or two!)
1 Shallot finely minced
1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
12 Canned snails (rinse and dry them)
1 Tablespoon bread crumbs
Generous pinch of salt
Salt and pepper for seasoning

How to prepare snails in garlic butter

In a saucepan over a medium heat add a little butter, the shallots, season with the salt and pepper and cook gently for 10 minutes. Put the snails in a gratin dish, or baking tin.

In a separate bowl mix together the butter, garlic, parsley, salt and breadcrumbs.

Spoon a teaspoon of the garlic butter over each snail (or, if you’re using a dish, cover the snails with the mix).

Put in the oven at Gas mark 4/180 deg F/230 deg C for 10-12 minutes.

Serve this scrumptious snail dish while it’s still bubbling – guaranteed to get you an “ooh la la”.

Mop the garlic butter up with a hunk of crispy French bread and toast with a glass of Champagne.

Merry Christmas and bon appétit!

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