It’s the recipe from La cuisine de mon enfance, my new cookbook as Associate Editor, that thrilled my boys. Not surprisingly when one considers the list of ingredients: bacon, cream and snails, one of my son’s favourite foods. Yep, the same boy that peels mozzarella off his pizza; snobs both caramel and cheddar; and snarls at stew, but bring on the snails and the foie gras. It’s like inverted picky eater syndrome.
The doggy bag you get to bring home after work is probably the nicest perk of a day-long photo shoot. You’re exhausted, from just basically standing around and waiting for the food stylist and photographer to be done so you can sign off on each picture, but ah the fun of emptying your bag of goodies in front of your astonished family. Snail stew, pork pies in flaky pastry and butterscotch pudding on a weekday night, let’s face it, that will never happen if I’m the one cooking.
© Mathieu Dupuis Photography
Each of the 100 recipes of La cuisine de mon enfance starts with an anecdote or piece of advice from the chef. To that end, I interviewed chef Jean-Luc Boulay about his childhood, cuisine and deep commitment to terroir. His snail stew, which may seem so sophisticated by North-American standards, actually illustrates the basic cuisine of “France profonde.” The best part? It requires only 6 ingredients and 15 minutes to prepare in what amounts to the easiest yet most gourmet starter imaginable.
Per the chef: ”With frog legs, escargots are one of the emblematic products of French cuisine. When I was young, on rainy days after school, my brother and I would go snail hunting. We would follow the train tracks over 4-5 kilometers looking for them. My mother would cook them if she had time. Otherwise I would sell them to the village butcher for a little pocket money”.
Unfortunately, in Québec, it’s nearly impossible to cook this recipe with fresh snails, unless you know someone who breeds them on a small scale for private use. Given my talks with local farmers who are fighting to import snails for commercial breeding—buried deep in paperwork and navigating the bureaucratic maze from hell—commercial heliciculture or snail breeding belongs to a distant future… Until then, you’ll have to make do with frozen or canned snails. This winning recipe is tailor-made for them.