Escargot vs. escargots: what’s in a name?

You may see on my site, as well as other locations, two terms: escargot and escargots. If you’re French, you already know the difference is simple. Escargot means “snail” and adding the “s” on the end simply pluralizes it into “snails.” However, most people confuse the word “escargot”, plural or not, with the dish that is formally known as Escargots de Bourgogne (or sometimes spelled Bourguignonne) or Snails from Burgundy. The dish consists usually of 6 snails stuffed into shells or a special plate and soaking in a thick broth of butter, garlic and parsley.

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Top: This is “escargots”; the “s” on the end is plural “snails”. On the bottom is “escargot”, or a singular snail. But a dish made from either is not “escargot.” Get it?

The Burgundy snail (scientifically known as Helix pomatia, but also commonly known as the Roman, vineyard or Gros gris) is larger, and rarer, than its cousin Helix aspersa (e.g., brown garden snail, Petit gris). Burgundy is, of course, the region of France known for its deep red wine as well as for its namesake snails. And while you CAN’T make Escargots de Bourgogne without escargots, you CAN make escargots without the Bourgogne. Anything soaked in garlic, butter and parsley can be edible. And the traditional dish is delicious, though even more so when the snails are fresh and not canned. It’s similar to the difference between fresh carrots and carrots from a can. Likewise, escargots can be prepared hundreds of ways; think of how many dishes you can make with mushrooms and you have an idea.

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