Linguine with Uni and Meyer Lemon

The temperatures of the waters in Maine have gotten colder lending way to some of the most delicious shellfish of the season. Urchins are available, but not many know how to clean it or cook it other than sushi preparations. Here is one of my favorite ways to eat those tender little orange chunks of sweet sea butter – with some lemon and some really good pasta! We use cultured butter in this recipe because it has a sweet and sour taste (not unlike yogurt) to give a well balanced juxtaposition to the richness of the uni.

Linguine with Uni and Meyer Lemon

Ingredients

Serves 2 (main course) or 4 (appetizer)

  • Uni from 3 large green urchin (ours came from Maine)

  • ½ lb fresh Linguine (dried is also acceptable if fresh is not available)

  • 1 stick unsalted cultured butter

  • 1 Meyer Lemon, sliced into rounds, seeds removed

  • 1 large shallot, minced

  • 2 T parsley, chopped finely

  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Boil lightly salted water for pasta

  2. In a cast iron skillet, brown 1 t. of butter with a pinch of salt and half of the minced shallots. Once the butter is browned, add in the lemon slices in one layer. Cook the slices on medium high heat until the lemons have browned and caramelized – a little black is just fine. Remove the slices from the pan and allow to cool. Chop finely and set aside.

  3. In a small saucepot, simmer just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by ¼ inch. Slowly whisk in the butter, one chunk at a time. The mixture should have one color and consistency, making sure that it does not break (if it breaks, the pasta will be greasy and unappealing). Once all of the butter is incorporated, move to a warm surface, like that back of the stove top.

  4. In a skillet, warm ½ of the liquid butter, the rest of the shallots, lemons, salt, pepper, and ¾ of the uni. Mix well, chopping up the uni lobes into smaller chunks. Toss in the pasta to coat well. Add the remaining uni to the remaining liquid butter. Plate the pasta in two bowls, topping with the held liquid butter and garnish with more black pepper and chopped parsley.

A Simple Guide to Sea Urchins

Growing up, I remember sea urchins being ubiquitous in the aquarium touch pools. I didn't think of these spiny, little sea creatures any other way until I was a young adult and had uni for the first time. Since then, sea urchin and food have been synonymous. In the past, I rarely found sea urchin outside a sushi restaurant, but lately, I’m seeing sea urchin more and more in unexpected places. In 2016, Nestle named it one of the top ten food trends due to their unique flavor. Chefs are finding more creative uses for sea urchin as they push the envelope, and it seems this little “sea hedgehog” is an ingredient that's here to stay.

About the Sea Urchin

Sea urchins are echinoderms most closely related to sea cucumbers and sea stars. Their spherical shells, or tests, are made up of plates and movable spines that protect them from predators. There are about 950 species of sea urchins that inhabit a wide range of depth zones in all climates across the world’s oceans. About 18 of them are edible. They primarily feed on algae and kelp, but are also omnivorous scavengers that will feed on animal matter.

Source: Shape of Life. A time-lapse video shows how urchins actively graze on kelp.

Sea Urchin as Food

When it comes to consumption, sea urchins are harvested for their gonads, also known as uni. These bright yellow to orange lobes are “stockpiles” of sugars, amino acids, and salts: a trifecta of sweet, salty, and umami. It’s been dubbed as the foie gras of the sea given its buttery texture and delicate ocean flavors. Like oysters, sea urchins also vary in flavor depending on its species and diet. Urchin lovers, for example, prize Hokkaido uni because of its flavor, developed from the urchin's diet of Hokkadio macro algae kombu.

The green, red, and purple species have the highest demand globally because their lobes tend to be larger and visually more appetizing. 99% of sea urchin are wild and harvested by diving or drags.

There are about 950 species of sea urchins… About 18 of them are edible.

99% of sea urchin are wild and harvested by diving or drags.

Source: Food Republic. L to R: Maine, Santa Barbara, and Hokkaido sea urchin.

Source: Food Republic. L to R: Maine, Santa Barbara, and Hokkaido sea urchin.

The Global and Domestic Market for Sea Urchin and Uni

The greatest consumption of sea urchin occurs in Japan, France, and Korea. Japanese consumption, however, wins by a landslide: the country consumes 80-90% of the current global supply. Sea urchin is a traditional staple in Japanese cuisine. Japan was the largest global harvester of sea urchins until the 1980s, but high demand and a decrease in domestic supply forced it to look abroad. From the 1980s to 1994, the US, particularly Maine, was the largest exporter of green sea urchin. Today, it’s Chile, which exports Chilean red urchin and accounts for 50% of global landings. Overall global supply has decreased over the last twenty years due to storms, decreasing kelp beds, invasive species, and over fishing. In 1995, global landings totaled 120,000 tonnes. In 2017, it decreased to 75,000.

In North America, the main sources of sea urchin come from the Canadian Maritime; Maine; and the Pacific coast from British Columbia to California. Green sea urchins are harvested from the Atlantic, while red and purple urchins are harvested from the Pacific. These days, domestic supply stays domestic to meet growing demand and ethnic markets. Domestic supply is also supplemented by imported product, mostly from Chile, during summer months.

How to Prepare Sea Urchin

Sea urchin is usually served raw as sushi, commonly seen in Japanese cuisine, but it has a variety of applications. Mediterranean cuisines have used urchin in sauces, pastas, and on breads for centuries. Modern day chefs are even transforming the ingredient into foams and mousses.

Preparing sea urchin is super easy with super tasty results. Bekah demonstrates how in this quick tutorial.

And as a bonus, here’s a recipe to try from our Pangea test kitchen —
Linguine with Uni and Meyer Lemon

The (un)Natural History of the Eastern Oyster

The (un)Natural History of the Eastern Oyster

All along the East Coast of the United States, for perhaps as long as man has survived here, there has been a special bond between Homo sapiens and the Eastern Oyster, or Crassostrea virginica. We’ve gorged ourselves on them, savored them, obliterated them, and made great steps toward resurrecting them. However, in order to have a chance at truly saving this species and, in effect, our estuaries and shorelines, it is important to understand the complicated history of our relationship.

Read More

Feast of the Seven Fishes: Shellfish Edition

For a traditional Southern Italian Christmas (and now an Italian-American staple), the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a grand event of seafood fare on Christmas Eve. Smelts, squid, whole sea bass, and clams fill plates that are passed around large tables to fill bellies before Santa arrives. Why there are seven fishes represented at this poignant gathering is still up for debate. Is it because 7 is a lucky number? Is it for the number of days in the week? Symbolic of the day of rest? Who really knows, but a ton of seafood is consumed, so I am more than okay with that!

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We love seafood here, so let me help spark some ideas for your feast, and maybe create a new tradition! With the right items, this meal is easier to prepare than you would expect.

1. Cap-off Jonah Cocktail Claws

Sweet , tender, and snackable – perfect for an hors d’oeuvre. Serve with a grilled lemon aioli to make a simple and elegant dip while people mingle and sip cocktails.

2. Oysters – All of them.

Try experimenting with a few varieties and different mignonettes or sauces. Want to really shake things up? Try grilling some with herb and shallot butter while you’re grilling lemons for your crab claws.

3. Live Scallop

Glamour is defined by a scallop served in its own shell. Shuck one raw, slice, and garnish with herbs and a funky vinegar or flavored salt. Keep it simple. They can shine completely on their own, especially since they're in season.

4. Scungilli / Live Whelk

Here comes the salad course. Local live whelk can be poached, steamed, or grilled, and sliced on a bed of hearty greens, parsley, and sweet onions. Dress with plenty of olive oil and lemon zest.

5. Stuffed Quahogs

A little bit of New England influence never hurt anyone. Steam the clams open, chop the meat, and mix with herbs, bacon, and breadcrumbs. Stuff it back in the shell and bake until golden. The sweetness of this dish should be a great segue for the courses to come.

6. Linguine with Manila Clams

It's not officially an Italian feast without a pasta course. Manilla clams are the perfect size for a petite burst of salty sweet accents to a tender linguine, spaghetti, or angel hair. Steam the clams open with garlic and white wine, stir in some butter, pour over the pasta, and season with plenty of black pepper.

7. Cioppino with Mussels

Finish your feast with a belly warming stew featuring mussels. Nothing makes me feel all warm inside like slurping shells and sopping up tomato broth with huge chunks of bread (something crusty and rustic!). Start by sweating onions, garlic, and shallots. Add sherry or white wine, crushed tomatoes and simmer, reducing slightly. Add in whitefish, crab, and plenty of sweet mussels to round out a perfect and festive evening.

If your culinary juices are flowing, feel free to email me for further ideas or recipes.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Bekah

16 Helpful Resources Including Free Stock Photos For Your Shellfish Business and Projects

16 Helpful Resources Including Free Stock Photos For Your Shellfish Business and Projects

As much as we like to call ourselves experts on shellfish, we're no encyclopedia. There's so much to know about shellfish that it's hard to have the answer to everything. However, the invention of the Internet has changed everything and even the hardest shellfish questions can be answered.

So, we scoured every nook and cranny for the best information and content out there and have assembled it here for your easy access! Every resource is Pangea-approved -- we use them ourselves, too -- so feel confident using all these resources for your shellfish projects throughout the year! Click "Read More" below to read our guide.

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What "NA-ICE" Really Means: Harvesting Shellfish In Winter

Harvesting shellfish is a hard job.

Now, imagine harvesting shellfish in winter...

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Single digit air temperatures... 35º water temperatures... The risk of your boat getting stuck out in the water...

These are all considerations shellfish harvesters have to think about doing their jobs.

Around this time of year, customers tend to see more "NA-ICE" on our price lists, and that is because many of our suppliers are battling icy and potentially dangerous conditions. For the harvesters that are willing to bare the extreme cold, they still have to break through the ice to get to their oysters.

Some use their boats to blaze a trail...

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And others use a power saw...

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To each their own! And even if our harvesters can get access to shellfish, sometimes the air may be so cold that it freezes the product once out of the water.

At the end of the day, we owe a huge thank you to our harvesters and growers for weathering cold winds and treading through frigid waters to supply product to our customers. We ask for our customers' patience and understanding because harvesting shellfish is a hard and unpredictable job.

Hear Ben's firsthand experience dealing with ice or scroll through the photos below to see some Canadian ice fishing in action. Leave a comment below to thank all of our shellfish fishermen, and we'll make sure to pass them on personally!

Photo compliments of Five Star Shellfish and Indian Cove Aquaculture

A Free Lecture on How Shellfish Can Change the World

Shellfish are amazing creatures. Besides being super tasty, they are also a crucial part of our ecosystem. The New England Aquarium is hosting a free lecture by Barbara and Patrick Woodbury, Wellfleet oyster growers, on how shellfish can change the world. Click on the post below to learn more and register for the talk.