The mystique of Champagne and the aura of Burgundy, two of France’s most honored wine regions combine together to make this elegant soup. This Champagne Escargot Soup is a rendition of a soup I enjoyed in the Champagne region. It is a perfect first course for an elegant meal. With a bit of prep, it is easy to finish right before serving.
Introduction to Champagne
Before the discussion of the soup, a bit about Champagne.
“Don’t wait for the moment to celebrate and drink Champagne, just create your own…”– Valentin Musset
Champagne despite its fame, despite its worldwide availability at wide price levels, had remained a bit of an enigma to me. The major famous brands can be quite pricy, many delivering the expected quality. Others reminded me of the power of extensive advertising and marketing propping up the prestige of the label that is not revealed on the palate. Furthermore, I was aware but had little tasting experience with the many small Champagne producers bottling their own high-quality wines with distinctive tastes. Simply put, while I had enjoyed 99%+ of the Champagne I have had in my life, I was woefully limited in my understanding of the details of what I was enjoying.
My solution to this dilemma was a visit to the region and a tour with Valentin Musset of Sparkling Tour. A day spent with Valentin covered a bit of the history of Champagne, a bit of beautiful scenery, a great deal of tasting, and a substantial bit of new knowledge delivered with a nuanced understanding of the workings of the region.
My conclusions from the experience are as follows:
- Champagne has the most consistent highest quality in the world, and this is not by accident. They have exacting standards controlling the process starting with the timing of when the grapes are harvested and how they are processed.
- Unquestionably the best value wines are the small producers. They produce much of the grape supply of the big houses anyway. They may be harder to find, but greater value.
- Some of the big names (and no, I do not plan on naming them) can be avoided — they just are not worth the price.
The Champagne Escargot Soup
Notes on Technique
This soup is a lighter version of a Cream of Mushroom soup. This is accomplished by simmering and softening the mushrooms in the Champagne, not reducing the Champagne completely. This is followed by a final simmer of a bit of cream.
The soup can be prepared up to the point of adding the cream which can be added right before serving.
Notes of Ingredients
Canned escargots are fully cooked and shipped with their cooking juices. They are usually a bit salty and flavorful. We take advantage of this by sautéeing the snails in the cooking butter in our first step.
Escargots freeze well for a few months. Simply put any extra on a piece of parchment paper, freeze, then transfer to a container.
Use a good quality brut Champagne. Fortunately, many reasonably priced are available. A still, white wine can be used — still excellent, but a different soup. As discussed below, you may want to use different mushrooms.
Choose some flavorful mushrooms (a combination of a few types, if possible) while avoiding more woody tasting varieties such as porcini or morels. In the photographed soup, I have used a combination of oyster and shitake. If using a still, white wine, you might consider different mushrooms. For example, a dry Alsace Reisling and porcini is a nice combination.
- 2 Tablespoon shallots, chopped
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 12 escargot
- 5 ounces (120 grams mushrooms), cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup champagne
- 2 tablespoons, chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup cream
- Cut slices of country bread into small pieces, brush with a small amount of olive oil. Toast lightly and sit aside.
- In a skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil and sauté the escargot for about 4 minutes. Remove and reserve.
- In the melted butter sauté the shallots without coloring. Add mushrooms and cook gently over a very low simmer. About 5 mins until they begin to soften.
- Incorporate the champagne and the parsley and reduce until somewhere betwen a third and a fourth of the liquid remains. (You may sit the soup aside in the pan for 20-30 minutes to finish later.)
- Stir in the cream, bring the mixture back to simmer, and let simmer over low heat for 3-5 mins.
- Add a bit of ground pepper to the soup. Taste for saltiness, salt as needed. (Note: the escargot can be salty and by themselves give the soup enough salt, therefore salt carefully.)
- Serve the soup in a shallow bowl. Add the escargot to the bowls. Serve with the toasted bread.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 468Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 173mgSodium: 226mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 43g
Calculated Nutrition is estimated.