THIS IS OUR interpretation of the ancestral garlic soup often sipped in Provence to counter the effects of a rowdy evening. We prepare it with spring garlic, the younger relative of the heady bulb, which provides grassy sweetness, a taste the small petits gris escargots relish in the countryside. If you have the time, and live escargots are available to you, do follow our process for a rewarding gustatory experience. You can also easily find them already cooked in a jar.
On the rim of the plate, crispy snails in tempura batter balance tender sautéed snails and spiraling fiddlehead ferns placed delicately on the soup. Keeping the traditional parsley, garlic, and snail combination evokes the escargots persillade of the popular lyonnais bouchons of my youth.
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48live petit gris snailsor substitute canned Burgundy snails (we recommend Sarl Henri Maire, very large), live snails take 3 days to prepare
If you are using live snails, place them in a ventilated, covered container in the refrigerator for 1 day. Sprinkle the flour into the container, over the snails, on the second day. On the third day, fill a large vessel with 3 quarts of heavily salted water and submerge the snails inside. Soak the snails for 1 hour, allowing them to disgorge (they will produce a lot of foam and the water will turn milky). Drain off the salt water and rinse. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 2 quarts water, the white wine, onion, celery, carrot, leek, bay leaf, sage, thyme, sachet, and snails. Simmer for 1½ hours, or until the snail flesh is tender, skimming any foam that rises to the surface as needed. Strain the snails, reserving 2 cups of the liquid and discarding the rest. Once they are cool enough to handle, use a toothpick to remove the snails from their shells. Cut off and discard the entrails (tortillon). Submerge the snails in the reserved liquid, cover, and reserve, chilled.
If using canned snails, rinse with cold water until it runs clear. Cut off and discard the entrails (tortillon).
For the Purple Potato Discs
Cut the potatoes lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Use a 1-inch-diameter ring cutter to punch out 24 discs. In a small saucepan, combine the discs, garlic, and thyme and cover with water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a light simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a cake tester. Remove from the heat to cool at room temperature in the liquid. Reserve in the liquid, chilled.
For the Spring Garlic Confit
Cut the stems from the spring garlic, peel away any damaged outer layers, and cut them on a bias to make twenty-four 1-inch batons. Trim the 16 bulbs into ½-inch lengths and season them with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan over medium heat, submerge the batons and bulbs in the olive oil. Cook at 185°F for 1 hour, or until tender. Keep warm.
For the Creamy Spring Garlic Soup
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and place a bowl of ice water on the side. Add the fiddlehead ferns and boil for 3 minutes, or until tender, and chill in the ice water; pat dry and reserve for finishing. Add the parsley leaves and boil for 45 seconds, then chill in the ice water; squeeze dry and reserve. Brown the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the spring garlic, onion, and sachet and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the potato, chicken stock, and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a light simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Remove the sachet and add the cream. Transfer the mixture to a blender, add the parsley, and puree until smooth (you may need to do this in batches). Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and serve immediately or transfer to a bowl set over ice; stir to chill. When ready to serve, reheat the soup.
Fill one-third of a medium saucepan with canola oil and heat to 350°F. Transfer the purple potatoes with their liquid to a saucepan, place over medium heat, and stir until heated through. Strain the snails and pat dry. Dip 24 of the snails into the tempura batter to coat, transfer to the oil with a fork, and fry until golden brown (you will need to do this in batches). Transfer to a paper towel–lined tray and sprinkle with salt. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the spring garlic confit oil into a small sauté pan and warm over medium heat. Toss in the reserved fiddlehead ferns and remaining snails to heat through; season with salt and pepper.
For each serving, ladle some of the soup into a bowl with a flat, wide rim. Float 3 batons of spring garlic stem confit, 3 fiddlehead ferns, and 3 sautéed snails on the soup. Arrange 3 purple potato discs in a line on the rim of the bowl and top each with a tempura escargot. Place two spring garlic confit bulbs in between the potatoes. Garnish with 2 miner’s lettuce leaves.