I think what I’m beginning to learn is that not everyone loves cooking as much as I do… or they definitely don’t geek out about the types of ingredients and potential dishes to make as I do…
Case in point — if you received an email from your weekly CSF (this context might already be pushing it as how many people do you know that get fresh fish delivered to them every week??), saying they will have sea urchins for $10/lb for pick up, what would your reaction be?
Mine was something like… OH MY GOD, SEA URCHINS! I AM SO EXCITED! and then I proceeded to geek out to my coworkers who looked at me like I was myself a creature from the sea! So as I said, I’m beginning to realize I may be a little different from the average person… I’m definitely an adventurous 23 year old and, I dare say, an adventurous foodie.
These sea urchines came to me from diver Doug Cassidy of Marblehead, Massachusetts through way of the wonderful Mermaid’s Garden CSF.
I mean, how cool are these?
Sea urchins have the strangest anatomy… those little teeth like and chewing structure in a sea urchin is called ‘Aristotle’s lantern.’ They move around through hundreds of tiny, transparent, adhesive “feet.”
And the stranger, possibly more disgusting part (for anyone who would turn their nose up at these creatures) is the delicacy within sea urchins are the gonads. Once you crack them open (I found hacking them with a knife to do the trick), you’re left with this beautiful, orange creamy substance. It’s firm to the touch and there’s about four inside each urchin. Rinse them with a little water and set aside to cook with.
They kind of look like tongues with tastebuds on them… don’t worry though, they don’t taste or feel like tongues!
*In researching sea urchin dishes, it seemed that usually one receives them pre-scooped from the urchin on a tray or board. Not as fun!
While sea urchin can be eaten in many ways — in sushi, in crudo, on grilled toast — I decided to use it in a pasta dish. I took a cue from the amazing French chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin (who I love) for this Uni butter sauce that I paired with squid ink pasta. (*Uni is the Japanese word for sea urchin).
As Eric Ripert says, “French cuisine is all about three ingredients… butter, butter, butter!” And so yes, this sauce has a stick of butter in it, but butter makes pretty much anything delicious so live a little!
For this pasta sauce, combine your uni with the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Whisk until the uni starts to dissolve. Add a little white wine and lemon juice and cook until the mixture has thickened.
Toss your cooked squid ink pasta in the sauce and garnish with grated parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.
It’s hard to describe what this dish tasted like but it was delicious! It was a lot better than I thought it would be in all honesty. The sea urchin sauce was buttery but also had a good seafood taste. It wasn’t overbearing by any means. I sadly can cook better than I can describe my cooking so my apologies but if you ever have the chance to eat sea urchins I recommend it! #YOLO
Now, I can cross working with sea urchins off my culinary wishlist! On to geeking out over the next strange ingredient or foodie project… homemade mozzarella anyone? Homemade bagels?
- ½ cup sea urchin roe
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon water
- Fine sea salt
- 2 ounces dried squid ink pasta
- For the sea urchin sauce, puree the sea urchin roe in a blender. Pass it through a fine-mesh sieve, and return to the blender. Blend the puree with the softened butter.
- To finish the sauce, bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Gradually whisk in the sea urchin butter, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
- When ready to serve, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain.
- To serve, use a meat fork to twirl one-quarter of the pasta and mound it in the center of a small bowl. Repeat three times. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the sauce remaining in the stainless steel bowl around each mound.