Turnip Soup with a Mirepoix of Snails
- 2 1/2 lbs fresh small turnips
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground white pepper
- A grating of nutmeg
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 1/4 Savoy cabbage (the curly leaf type)
- 8 firm mushrooms
- 4 tbsps unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 dozen small Burgundy snails ('helix pomatia')
- 2 tbsps crème fraîche or heavy cream
- 3 tbsps minced chives or chervil, or both
This mirepoix (a very fine dice of mixed vegetables and herbs) is made mostly of carrots, cabbage and mushroom, which gives an earthy quality to this soup that heightens the mineral, gravely flavors of the snails. This is, in fact, a great vehicle for appreciating the snail.
For the soup: Heat the chicken stock and add the peeled and coarsely chopped turnips. Season with salt, and cook covered over a low heat for 20-25 minutes. Puree the soup in a processor or with a hand-held blender; add the cream, season with the salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste.
While the soup is cooking, make the mirepoix. Slice the carrots thinly lengthwise, stack and cut into strips, then cut crosswise into a fine dice. Slice the savoy cabbage thinly and then slice crosswise into a fine dice. Slice the mushrooms, and then chop them finely. In one tablespoon of the butter, sauté the mushrooms until all their liquid has evaporated. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and reserve. In the same pan melt the remaining butter and add the finely diced carrot, cabbage and garlic. Season with salt, cover and cook over a low fire until soft.
Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat the escargots with their liquid and enough water to cover just until they come to a simmer. Strain the snails, rinse briefly under cool water and, if they are large, coarsely chop them. Add the snails to the mirepoix with the mushroom mixture and remaining cream. Let this cook covered over low heat for 5 minutes. Reheat the soup. Taste the mirepoix for seasoning and add the herbs. Ladle the hot soup into warm shallow bowls and spoon the mirepoix into the center of each bowl. Serve immediately.