Sea urchin is often a polarizing ingredient. Yoo Eatz encourages us to muster some courage and embrace this culinary adventure in the form of pasta.
What's so gross about sea urchin? Even some of the most adventurous eaters I know will make the most horrific faces when the topic comes up.
I asked my husband about this — he generally recoils when I suggest that we share a pair of nigiri at the sushi bar — and he offered that it's a textural thing. Some people say it resembles phlegm (or worse), and I heard one person characterize the briny bits as "little orange tongues" (although, let's face it: the truth of what uni is may actually be harder to stomach!). But a lot of these same people will tell me that the flavor doesn't bother them; in fact, they find it quite pleasant.
For more, plus a recipe, keep reading!
So when my BFF told me about a sea urchin pasta she makes for dinner parties, I found a way to sneak uni back onto the plates of the unsuspecting (just a word of caution to anyone who's invited to my house for dinner). This recipe is based upon Eric Ripert's On the Line, which means that it is insanely decadent, topping a first course-size portion of sea urchin linguine with Iranian osetra caviar. My girlfriend uses ikura (salmon roe), which also provides a nice, salty punch to the velvety sauce at a much more reasonable price (my nearby Japanese market sells it for $2 per ounce vs. $200 for osetra). I managed to find an ounce of domestic Hackleback caviar for $50, and it was plenty for four servings. And my uni-shy husband? He licked his bowl clean.
Linguine With Sea Urchin and Caviar
Adapted from On the Line by Eric Ripert
- 1 2-ounce tray of sea urchin
- 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp. water
- Kosher salt
- White pepper powder
- 4 ounces dried linguine
- 1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped chives, plus more for garnish
- 1 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 ounce American Hackleback sturgeon caviar
- 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 one tablespoon at a time. Do not overcook (butter will begin to separate). 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.
- 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.
- 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 one tablespoon of the sauce remaining in the stainless steel bowl around each mound. Place 1 1/2 teaspoons of the caviar on top of each mound of pasta and garnish with additional chives, if desired. Serve immediately.