It’s a bit of a weird tradition, but my mother used to serve either snails or frog’s legs in garlic butter for our New Year’s Eve starter. In hindsight, it’s probably a good idea to fill everyone up with lashings of butter before they start the serious drinking. It’s a tradition I am going to revive for my own New Year’s 2020, the first year I will be home for the evening in about 15 years! The great thing about snails is that you can make it all in advance and just push it into the oven on the night. The other added advantage is the wonderful smell that will permeate the house and make the neighbours jealous. I did a trial run at our friend’s house a few days ago, so here’s the recipe.
I use these little ceramic 6 snail pans, which you should be able to buy cheaply online, or from a professional catering supplier. These come from FKF in Kuala Lumpur and are by far not as expensive as they look. https://www.fkfhotelsupply.com.my/
Snails in Garlic Butter
- 36 prepared snails (you can buy a perfectly decent 12 dozen can online and freeze whatever you are not using)
- 220g unsalted butter
- 25g / 1 heaped Tbsp chopped garlic
- 15ml / 1½ Tbsp lemon juice
- 12g / 2 heaped Tbsp chopped parsley
- 7g / 1 heaped Tbsp finely sliced celery leaf stalks
- 15g / 2 Tbsp chopped shallots
- 8g /1½ tsp salt
- pepper to taste
- 6 Tbsp lightly seasoned breadcrumbs
This recipe will give you exactly enough garlic butter for the snails, provided you use traditional ceramic trays to prepare your snails in. If you are using snail shells, you will need about 30% more garlic butter. I have used canned snails, but feel free to use fresh ones if you know what to do and have the determination to do it.
Leave the butter out to come to room temperature. Properly softened butter will make your life a lot easier. Chop the garlic really fine, without turning it into a paste. The same goes for the parsley. Celery leaf is quite bitter, so I prefer to use just the stalks, finely sliced. I don’t chop the shallot either but dice it really fine.
Beat the softened butter to fluff it up, then beat in all the ingredients. You will want to check the seasoning. Your butter should be quite salty, but not ridiculously so. Remember that salt dissolved much more slowly in butter than in liquid, so leave it to stand a while before you taste it, or you might be in for a rude awakening later.
Drain and rinse your snails, then dry them on kitchen paper. They don’t need to be completely dry. I sometimes boil them up in a little court bouillon, but it’s not entirely necessary. Put a half a teaspoon of the garlic butter into the bottom of every little hole in your ceramic snail tray, place a snail into each and top with one more teaspoon of garlic butter. The snails do not need to be completely covered, or completely inside the indentation, so don’t worry how the thing looks like at this stage.
You can do this in advance and then keep the trays in the chiller until you need them, but they will also happily wait at room temperature for an hour or so. Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC and bake the snails until they bubble furiously, about 15-25 minutes, depending on whether the snails were cold or not. It’s quite hard to overcook them, so make sure they are properly heated.
Put about a tablespoonful of breadcrumbs all over each tray, turn the oven to grill setting and grill until the top is nicely browned. I like to mix my breadcrumbs with a little chopped garlic and parsley, as well as a bit of salt and black pepper, but again, it’s not entirely necessary, as long as you salted the butter properly. Eat while hot, but try not to burn your lips, these things are boiling hot!