Mussels, served in a modern update of escargot style (photo © Millesime Restaurant | NYC [now closed]).
Escargots don’t have much flavor. What brings them to life is the vibrant garlic-parsley butter, known in French cuisine as beurre maître d’hôtel butter.
It’s a popular compound butter that’s used on fish, meat, noodles, potatoes, vegetables and you-name-it.
It’s delicious year-round, and its bright hue from the parsley gives the dish some needed color.
Substitute the escargots for mussels, as this inspired recipe from Millesime restaurant in New York City shows, and serve it as a first course. (Or, use escargots: They work equally well.)
The only challenge is to decide what dishes you have to serve it in. Most of us don’t have escargot dishes.
But as you can see in photo #1, any dish will work. Have Champagne coupes? Time to use them for other than Champagne!
We’ve suggested extra toast, below, because most people will want to soak up every last drop of the butter sauce.
Going forward, we’ll use the American name for the butter sauce, sparing those who don’t speak French the need to pronounce beurre maître d’hôtel butter (burr meh-TRUH doe-TELL).
You may have seen escargots presented in the classic style: in a round “escargot dish” with five or more wells. One snail drenched with garlic butter is placed in each.
While escargots are cooked out of the shell, sometimes they are placed back in for serving (see photo #2): an impressive visual.
Escargots are a popular first course in France, Spain, and Portugal. They are also served North Africa, particularly Algeria and Morocco.
RECIPE #1: MUSSELS IN GARLIC PARSLEY BUTTER
In this dish, escargots and mussels are interchangeable. However, for visual effect, triangles of toast make more impact than the traditional slices of baguette.
Ingredients For 4 Servings
1. MAKE the garlic parsley butter. Keep on the stove.
2. REMOVE mussels and beards from shells; rinse and sauté lightly in butter.
3. MAKE the toast and slice into quarters. Warm garlic parsley butter sauce as necessary.
4. ASSEMBLE and serve: Fill dish with butter sauce, add six mussels and serve with toast points.
5. REFRIGERATE any remaining garlic parsley butter for other use, including garlic bread.
RECIPE #2: GARLIC PARSLEY BUTTER
1. PULSE all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour into a microwave-safe dish or small pitcher.
2. KEEP on or near stove if making the mussels for immediate consumption. Otherwise, cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. HEAT before serving.
Garlic parsley butter, a compound butter known in French cuisine as maitre d’hotel butter (photo © Brown Eyed Baker).
WHAT IS COMPOUND BUTTER
Compound butter is preparation that combines unsalted butter with flavorful ingredients: fruits, herbs, nuts, spices and/or other savory ingredients (anchovies, capers, mustard, olives, etc.).
It is often used in French cooking to create an instant sauce for anything from grilled steak to sautéed chicken and fish to vegetables; it is also stirred into soups and stews for added flavor.
In the U.S., popular compound butters include strawberry butter for muffins, chipotle butter for corn on the cob, and perhaps the most familiar, garlic butter for garlic bread.
Here’s more on compound butter, plus recipes.