We call them bulots here; in English they’re sea snails (Buccinum undatum). Whatever their moniker, they’re one of the tastiest morsels that comes from the sea. They’re also one of the most common,at least here in Normandy. On any given day in any given poisssonerie, or fish market, or at any given fish stand in the market, bulots are always present.
Bulots are sold both raw and cooked. If they’re cooked, all that need be done is carry them home, put them in a bowl, pull out toothpicks, lemon, and mayonnaise and voila! Lunch is served.
I like to cook bulots myself, to insure their tenderness. I am always amazed that my children tuck into these creatures with abandon, pulling them from their shells and dipping them into mayonnaise. It is at moments like these that I realize I have raised French children. they like their sea snails, they sometimes make the mayonnaise that is indispensably served with them.
Cooking bulots is a simple affair. It requires heavily salted water (to replicate sea water), herbs like bay, thyme, fennel, parsley. I add a half lemon to the water, as well as a sliced onion. I add the bulots to cold water, bring it to a boil and leave it there for 15 minutes. Then, I remove the pan from the heat and let the bulots cool in the water. If I’m going to serve them immediately I drain them. Otherwise, I leave them in their cooking water until I’m ready to serve them, which might be two to three days hence. They keep perfectly for that length of time.
Mayonnaise is obligatory with little things from the sea. I make mine flavored with lemon zest, and tarragon from the garden at this time of year. This makes it even nicer and more fresh than ordinary home made mayonnaise. It’s a simple affair to make. Put an egg yolk, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and a tablespoon of vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in a big pinch of salt, then a very thin stream of peanut or sunflower oil, until the mixture thickens. Finish it with a thin stream of extra-virgin olive oil, to the thickness you like. If you’re from Provence, you want your mayonnaise thick enough to stand a spoon in. In Normandy we like it a bit thinner – it’s the oil that determines the thickness.
If you don’t have bulots you can substitute whelk, abalone, or simple shrimp with your mayonnaise. Enjoy!