If you find snails to be a surprising ingredient in an Italian cookbook, you’re not alone: Most cooks and diners associate them with French cuisine, and with the more appealing French name escargot, than with Italy. But if you venture to the northern region of Piedmont, you will encounter a great deal of French influence, including the use of butter in many recipes.
In addition to being a celebration of autumnal ingredients, this dish offers a wonderful way to introduce the uninitiated to the pleasures of snails, braised here with an assortmentof wild mushrooms that almost serve to camouflage the mollusks because of their similar size and texture. The resulting stew is served over polenta, which drinks in the sauce.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small Spanish onion, cut into small dice
- 1 small celery stalk, trimmed and cut into small dice
- 1 small carrot, cut into small dice
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 12 ounces mixed wild mushrooms, such as cremini, hen-of-the-woods, and porcini, trimmed and quartered
- 1 28-ounce can poached snails, preferably from Burgundy
- (available at specialty stores, or see Sources)
- 8 fresh sage leaves, minced
- Needles from 1 rosemary sprig, minced
- 1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
- 0.5 cup brandy
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1½ cups Dark Chicken Stock
- Heat a medium heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the oil and heat until the butter is melted, tipping and tilting the pan to coat it. Add the onions, celery, carrots, shallots, and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the vegetables begin to soften but do not brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, snails, sage, rosemary, and bay leaf and stir to incorporate. Cook until the mushrooms begin to give off their liquid, about 5 minutes.
- Pour in the brandy, bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and simmer until the brandy has almost completely evaporated, about 4 minutes. Pour in the wine, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the liquid is simmering and cover with a lid. Braise until the vegetables are tender and the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf.
- Spoon some polenta into the center of each plate and top with the snails, mushrooms, and sauce. Serve.
- ISPIRAZIONE Snails are incorporated into a flavor-packed risotto in the recipe on Snail Risotto with Parsley Pesto, Garlic Cream, and Garlic Chips.