Thursday, January 18, 2018

Abalone: Out of the Shell and Into the Pan #FishFridayFoodies


It's time for Fish Friday Foodies' first 2018 event. This is our two-year group anniversary! We are a group of seafood-loving bloggers, rallied by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, to share fish and seafood recipes on the third Friday of the month. This is, easily, my favorite recipe sharing event of the month. I always come away with a list of recipes that I just have to try! 


This month, I am hosting. I wrote: "Create and share a recipe with any kind of shellfish. Think soups, breaded and fried, sautéed, steamed, or even raw. If it has a shell, it's fair game!"

The Rest of the Shelled Goodness


Monterey Abalone
I decided to write about one of my favorite shellfish: abalone! This shellfish took a circuitous route from native currency (yep...it was used as money) to culinary delicacy (do you know how much restaurants charge for abalone these days??). And in between it was exported to markets in China and Japan because there was no American market for its meat.

That was until “Pop” Ernest Doelter taught Americans how to prepare it. He pounded the steaks for his restaurant on the wharf in Monterey wharf and served them at the 1915 World's Fair in San Francisco. Finally in the spotlight, abalone’s popularity soared, bringing the edible gastropod to the brink of extinction.


Back in 2012, I was lucky enough to attend a cooking class at Aubergine taught by executive chef Justin Cogley. I did have to invoke some serious superhero skills for the assignment, juggling a camera, a notepad, and a pen, all while wielding a knife, a mallet, and a variety of other utensils. What a fun experience!

 He guided a dozen or so of us through how to get the abalone out of the shell, into the pan, and onto a plate! Here's how it goes...


Step One: Shuck
Cogley demonstrated, in one deft motion, how to separate the mollusk from its shell. Our efforts weren’t quite as graceful, but we did it.


Step Two: Clean and Pound
Also, we didn’t actually clean the abalone, Julian did that for us, but he demonstrated how to pound them and we eagerly gave that a try after Cogley made the distinction between the ‘presentation side’ and the ‘other side.’ We pounded the other side with the spiked side of the mallet. Almost fifty strikes was what one of my classmates counted during the demonstration. Then we flipped the abalone over, covered it with a towel, and pounded it again with the smooth side.


Step Three: Sous Vide
At that point, our abalone were vacuum-sealed for us to take home and we cooked abalone that Cogley and his crew had already prepped. When I write ‘prepped for final cooking’, I mean they were cooked sous vide (French for 'under vacuum') ahead of time. Sous vide is a method of cooking in vacuum-sealed plastic pouches at precisely controlled temperatures. For this preparation, the abalone were sous vide’d at 140° F for 30 minutes prior to the final cooking. 

While the results were amazing, I am torn when I look at a sous vide machine. Love the results. Hate that it's cooked in plastic and really wonder about what that's releasing into the food cooked inside. So, I have a sous vide that's never been opened because I'm trying to figure out other cooking vessels besides the plastic pouches. Would love to hear if you have any alternates.

Step Four: Pan-Fry and Plate
We heated unsalted butter in a pan and quickly pan-fried our abalone to give them a nice golden color. It took barely a minute per side. Then we spooned a bed of braised corn and Tiger’s Eye beans onto the plate, placed our abalone on top, and garnished it with some sea lettuce, sea grass, oyster leaves and a sprinkling of salt. 


Other Abalone Dishes
I am fortunate to belong to a CSF (community-support fishery) here in Monterey. And we get abalone throughout the season. Thankfully, they prep it for us. No more pounding! I've made Abalone-Topped Pasta all'Amatriciana, Meunière-Style Monterey Bay Abalone, and more.

Do you get abalone? How do you prepare it??

7 comments:

  1. Wow...that seems like a lot of work LOL...perhaps I will find abalone already prepped and ready to go in the pan at the fishmonger. This is actually our second anniversary for FFF and the first for SSS.

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  2. I love abalone, too, but I've never seen it in any of my local markets! I'll have to ask if they can order it; I'd love to try this delicious sounding dish! Thanks for a great theme, Camilla. P~

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  3. I am sooooooo jealous that you have access to abalone! I ate it every week for dinner growing up, and it just disappeared. We recently vacationed in Mendocino, and all we could find were these tiny appetizers with specks of abalone. Thanks for the great theme.

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  4. I haven't seen abalone locally. But now I know if I find it where to go for cooking advice!

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  5. These abalone look interesting, I do think they are found in our Indian shores.

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  6. I'm not sure I've tried abalone but I definitely want to try - will have to keep an eye out for it! Great to have the experience learning how to prep it.

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