Abalone is nothing like Beefaroni
Happy New Year!
I write that with an excited tone (you can tell by the exclamation mark) but to be honest, January kind of annoys me. Not that I don’t want you to have a Happy New Year. I really do.
But in January, as we all know, people make resolutions. Midnight on December 31 becomes that line in the sand where everyone says, “That’s it! As of now, I’m going to…”
1. Start showing up at the gym with all of my resolution-making friends so that Ann has to wake up even earlier than 5:15 to make sure she gets a spin bike for her already popular 6am class
2. Stop drinking wine and beer to “go dry” for January, and then try not to be judgemental when my wife Ann doesn’t make the same decision. This will also make me grump around occasionally and not fully let loose for an entire month
3. Eat healthy, so that when I go to Ann’s house for our semi-regular Friday mom hang-out session (aka “slummy mummies”), I won’t really want a decadent meat fest and will pretend to rave about the quinoa, even though Ann could have made something far more delicious
See how annoying January is? Blech. I’ll take the barbecues and beers and bike rides of July any day of the week, thanks.
So this recipe is my answer to January. It’s fried. It’s expensive. It’s very anti-January. Please do me a favour, and if you should decide to make it, wash it down with a bottle of vodka and a couple pints of ice cream or something.
I’m shocked I had never had abalone before. I love seafood. You’ve seen all the odd, weird things I’ve tried, and of all the foods I’ve ever tasted, lobster is still my A#1. I went to France once and ate a tiered tower of snail-looking mollusks, and I was basically in heaven. If it swims, I’m in. So the last time I was in the freezer section of my beloved T&T global grocery store, I had to grab a little packet of five abalone. Mostly because they sat beside these abalone. Check out that price. I knew they had to be good — they were more than three times as much as my beloved lobster. Check out that lock. Obviously theft-worthy. Anything that has to be locked down like razors, baby formula (breaks my heart), and Ray Bans has got to be something special.
Turns out that abalone has been subject to years of poaching and overfishing (if you fish for shellfish), so now it’s mostly farmed and is highly regulated. In Australia, apparently you’re allowed to scuba dive for it some places, but in other areas you can only free dive for them and are restricted to two per person. So I didn’t buy that high-end, locked up stuff — my farmed variety was much cheaper (wish I remembered exactly how much, sorry!!) and was available free-and-clear, unlocked, beside the Australian case at the store.
Abalone. The perfect indulgence when everyone around me has chosen not to indulge!
And I fried it. Nothing says go for it like deep fry.
Not only that — one recipe I saw suggested an option of replacing bread crumbs for pine nuts, which gave me the idea of playing with the breading ingredients. You could do this for blissful chicken fingers, calamari, or any other food you’re looking to add a twist to. I couldn’t keep away from the breadcrumb mixture, even before it was cooked.
So here’s how it all went down.
Preparing the abalone
My abalone came in a pretty little pack of five. Frozen, shells on.
So first you have to pop their little shells off. They’re attached with a foot, much like a mussel, but they also have a little sack of guts at the back. It might burst and look like squid ink — no biggie. Just give it a rinse, or pinch off the little offal sack of guts if it stayed in tact.
Check out their pretty little shells. They’re where mother-of-pearl comes from.
Now these little guys need to be tenderized so that you don’t feel like you’re chewing on an old New Year’s champagne cork. Smash them with a knife, or whack them with a rolling pin, or pummel them with a meat tenderizer if you’re fancy — do it until they’re softer, but so that they remain in once piece. I started with a knife but a rolling pin worked better.
Now trim off their little beards making sure to leave as much of the meat on as you can, slice them into thin strips, and you’re good to get on with your recipe.
- 1/2C sourdough croutons
- 1/3C pine nuts
- 1/4C parmesan cheese
- 2Tbsp fresh parsley
- 1 egg
- Prepared abalone strips (from 5 small abalone. The wild guys are much bigger)
- 2 inches of vegetable oil in your favourite small pot or pan
- Coarse salt
1. Whizz the first four ingredients in a food processor and shake the delicious dust into a bowl. Crack the egg into another bowl and scrambly scramb it with a fork.
2. Heat your oil being careful not to let it smoke. Dip your abalone into the egg, and then into the crumbs. Drop the pieces into the oil, using tongs to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom and that they don’t touch each other. Fry in batches until golden.
3. Dry on paper towels, sprinkle with coarse salt, and chow down, or serve in a po’ boy or with your favourite dipping sauce.
Results: I ate the whole darn plate of them. They say that abalone tastes like a cross between an oyster and foie gras. To me, they tasted like a nicer clam strip or mussel. I wouldn’t say no if I saw them on a menu somewhere, that’s for sure. My son snuck one and said, “Mom, I don’t really like the beefaronis.” But he didn’t hate them, and that’s really saying something. Rating: 4 Yums
Hey, do me a favour and comment telling me how you’re going to have a decadent January, okay?