I wasn’t making that up.
Purple Sea Urchin, SMBayKeeper
The name urchin is an old name for the round spiny hedgehogs that sea urchins resemble and is used in many cultures (riccio in Italian, erizo in spanish) to describe the bristly Echinoderm.
Hedgehog in the palm of a hand, defines cute
Sea otters feed on sea urchins.
They are found in the North Atlantic and on the West Coast of America as well. In Maine, sea urchins are impolitely known as whores' eggs. In the Orkney Islands of Scotland (home of night-less summers and ‘simmer dim’) urchin was once used instead of butter. *
Julia Moskin of the NYT’s tells us “Sea urchins evoke the flavor of caviar, the trembly texture of panna cotta and the briny but bracing strangeness that comes with eating live oysters.”
“They are one of the few remaining delicacies that must be harvested from the wild and cannot, for most purposes, be frozen. They are hand-cut by professional scuba divers — or, in some parts of Korea, by women who train from childhood to hold their breath and dive in cold water. These haenyo, or sea women, dive as deep as 50 feet with no gear other than a mask and a knife, gathering sea urchins, abalone, seaweed and conch. (Women are better able to tolerate cold water, and it became traditional for them to support their families by selling their catch.)"
“An aphrodisiac in Japan for thousands of years, sea urchin, or uni, as the Japanese call it, is not the roe. It is the gonads of this hermaphrodite sea creature that are scooped out of the urchin’s spiny shell in five custard-like, golden sections.
From a nutritional standpoint, sea urchin is one of the most prominent culinary sources of anandamide, a cannabinoid neurotransmitter. Does this mean that eating uni will produce a similar effect to ingesting marijuana? Probably not, but it is possible that uni activates the dopamine system in the brain, humans’ built in “reward circuit” reports Eat Something Sexy
I really felt validated when I read that. The sublime taste and texture of urchin always puts me in the mood for romance!
Eric Ripert at Bernadin has a great recipe for a sea urchin pasta sauce that Robin at Caviar and Codfish blogged about. The recipe was in Eric Ripert's book On the Line. Did I mention I love Eric Ripert?I remember particularly a soup at Bernadin with hot and cold urchin… I nearly passed out from pleasure. Eric Ripert is a genius.
I just had to try that pasta and it was delicious… just not as delicious as it could be because my urchin wasn’t as good as it could be… a little old, I think. Claudia at CookEatFret raved about Catalina Offshore Products So I gave them a call and was not disappointed. They have some of the best urchin I have ever seen in the US or Japan. It is fresh and firm and full of that briny sensual quality that I have loved when I’ve had it at great restaurants. The stuff I had a few weeks ago was a pale ghost compared to this (and it arrives the next day after you order it!).
I loved Ripert’s pasta recipe but had an idea that I wanted to try. I made the sauce as the recipe dictated, but I took 4 of the urchin, chopped them roughly and soaked them for 2 hours in 2 T of madeira and tossed it in the sauce. It was heaven. This dish is pure seduction.
For the pasta, only the best would do so I made the The French Laundry Cookbookpasta recipe.
Sea Urchin Pasta based on an Eric Ripert Recipe
1/2 cup sea urchin ( I ordered the Golden)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (or 1/3 c rich heavy cream + 2T butter)
1 tablespoon water (skip the water if you use the cream)
Fine sea salt
Espelette pepper powder
8 ounces fresh linguine, 4 oz dry
1-1/2 teaspoons thinly sliced chives
1 T chervil leaves
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
4 pieces of urchin steeped in 2 T Madeira ( Boston Bual - but I used a little 1937 Verdelho)
1 ounce caviar (I used golden whitefish he used Iranian osetra)
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 or cream.
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(skip the water if you are using cream-just heat the sauce, do not boil). Season with salt and Espelette pepper and keep warm.
When ready to serve, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain.
Put the chives in a medium stainless steel bowl, add the warmed sauce and Parmesan cheese, and mix well. Season with salt and white pepper if necessary. Gently toss the pasta with the sauce and add the marinated urchin.
To serve, mound it in the center of a small bowl. Repeat three times. Squeeze the lemon juice over the pasta and place 1-1/2 teaspoons of the caviar on top of each mound of pasta. Serve immediately.
Based on Pasta Dough by Thomas Keller (this is more than enough… make it and use the rest for another great dish)
3/4 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour
3 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon milk
Mound the flour on a board or other surface and create a well in the center, pushing the flour to all sides to make a ring with sides about 1 inch wide. Make sure that the well is wide enough to hold all the eggs without spilling.
Pour the egg yolks, egg, oil, and milk into the well. Use your fingers to break the eggs up. Still using your fingers, begin turning the eggs in a circular motion, keeping them within the well and not allowing them to spill over the sides. This circular motion allows the eggs to gradually pull in flour from the sides of the well; it is important that the flour not be incorporated too rapidly, or your dough will be lumpy. Bring the dough together with the palms of your hands and form it into a ball. It will look flaky but will hold together.
Knead the dough by pressing it, bit by bit, in a forward motion with the heels of your hands rather than folding it over on itself as you would with a bread dough. The dough should feel moist but not sticky. Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you clean the work surface.
Dust the clean work surface with a little flour. Knead the dough by pushing against it in a forward motion with the heels of your hands. Form the dough into a ball again and knead it again. Keep kneading in this forward motion until the dough becomes silky-smooth. The dough is ready when you can pull your finger through it and the dough wants to snap back into place. The kneading process can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Even if you think you are finished kneading, knead it for an extra ten minutes; you cannot overknead this dough. It is important to work the dough long enough to pass the pull test; otherwise, when it rests, it will collapse.
Double-wrap the dough in plastic wrap to ensure that it does not dry out. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before rolling it through a pasta machine. The dough can be made a day ahead, wrapped and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before proceeding. Put it through your pasta machine to the last level and make linguine.
*As always, most facts come from Wikipedia unless otherwise noted, and for that we are eternally grateful. The few things I know myself I contribute humbly to the great knowledge pool of the blog world.