The Crucial Role Butter Plays In Serving Escargot

Eating escargot in France is no trivial matter. Unlike in Spain, where snails are grilled and slurped as seasonal delicacies, escargot is a meal presented and eaten with the utmost care. There are even special tongs you need to eat the things properly. However, there is nothing more crucial to the escargot recipe than the butter sauce served with them. 

It is estimated that the average French citizen consumes somewhere in the vicinity of 18 pounds of butter per year. Compare that to the 6.5 pounds per year for the average American, and you can see just how beloved butter is in France. This is not to say butter is simply eaten plain, but it is incorporated into many things, such as pastries, on sandwiches, and in sauces. However, there is one particular butter-based sauce, called persillade, that is absolutely essential to the tradition of escargot.

Though the sauce is typically used as a garnish, it plays a far bigger role with escargot. It's is not considered a proper escargot service unless it consists of at least a 50/50 ratio of snails to butter sauce; that's like a double billing for a blockbuster. But what exactly is persillade, and why is it so perfect for escargot?

A marriage of parsley, garlic, and butter

Persillade is a marriage between three ingredients: garlic, parsley, and butter, with the latter two playing the biggest roles. Parsley is often used to emphasize the flavors of a dish by offering an herbaceous counterpoint and providing eye-catching color. Making persillade is a simple matter of combining the ingredients together into a pesto-like consistency. 

While escargot are not cooked in the persillade, the sauce goes a long way towards developing the overall flavor of the meal. The snails are typically cooked in wine or a broth of some kind. The persillade is added after the snails are finished cooked and have been placed into their little trays, and it is added liberally. So much so that it often looks like shells of persillade as opposed to shells with snails inside of them. 

The garlic and parsley offer up their aromatics, while the butter adds richness that work perfectly with the mild qualities of the small snails. Served with a piece of crusty bread, you have yourself a plate of very traditional, very flavorful, French escargot.