These spiky extraterrestrial-looking animals are a real gift from the oceans, a hidden gem for all those oyster and seafood lovers out there. If you are familiar with them, you will love this recipe. If you aren’t, say hola to our Galician sea urchins gratin!
Look at them. Sea urchins look like the sort of deathly ninja weapon that Chuck Norris would choose to treat their enemies. Definitely that rather than something you might call a ‘seafood delicatessen’. But now, is that really what you think? If that’s the case then I’m telling you. Don’t let the sea urchins mess up with your perception skills. Because what you’ve got in front of your eyes is nothing less than a precious treasure from the oceans!
So let’s start cooking them! Is there anything you should know about sea urchins before you start the recipe? Not strictly, although you might be interested in knowing that the best sea urchins are found in January and February, when the sea waters are at their coolest temperature. Also interesting to know is that the females are substantially better tasting than the males. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to discern one from each other unless you crack them open, point at which you’ll realize than the female corals are way more orange than the paler version from the males.
Oh, and you don’t actually need to cook sea urchins to eat them. In fact eating them raw is probably eating them at their best. Perhaps ideal with a few drops of lemon, just like you would eat an oyster. And hey, if you like oysters, then I can promise that you will love sea urchins.
- 4 units Sea urchin
- 1 small Leek – finely chopped
- 1 small Brown onion – finely chopped
- 2 tbsp White plain flour
- 250 ml Whole milk
- 25 ml Sherry – Fino or Manzanilla
- 100 g Unsalted butter
- For the breadcrumps:
- 2 slices White bread
- 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese – grated
- 1 clove Garlic – grated
- Fresh parsley – to taste
- Start by opening the sea urchins. They can often be tricky to handle. To avoid any damage from the spikes use a folded cloth to grab them with one hand. With the other one, take some scissors and insert them through the animal mouth, which is the biggest of the two apertures. Cut a circular hole around the top as per the picture.
- Pour the liquid that you will find inside the animal into a little jar and reserve aside. This liquid is full of amazing flavour so we will be using it later.
- With the help of a spoon, extract the corals —the orange spongy bits— and reserve aside. Take the animal shell and wash it thoroughly until is completely clean inside out.
- Now let’s move on into making the bechamel. To do that heat a saucepan with the butter and poach the onion and the leek, both very finely chopped, over a medium temperature.
- When the onion and the leek are transparent add the sherry and cook for a couple of minutes to allow for the alcohol to evaporate.
- Then stir in the flour. Keep stirring whilst it cooks for a couple of minutes. Then start whisking in the milk, little by little, until you get a medium thick bechamel that fully coats the back of a wooden spoon.
- Stir in the corals and the liquid from inside the animal into the bechamel. Cook for an extra minute whilst you keep stirring. The bechamel will turn into a beautiful salmon colour. Take off the heat and blend thoroughly with a hand blender until you get a smooth paste. Strain through a sieve and pour the mix into each of the sea urchins shells, up to two thirds of their capacity.
- To make the breadcrumbs, place all the ingredients in a blender bowl and blend for a couple of seconds, then look at the result. If it needs a bit more, do it again. But remember… we do not want to pulverize the breadcrumbs into a powder, so be careful!
- Cover the bechamel with a thin layer of breadcrumbs and place the sea urchins in the oven for 5 minutes at 200ºC under the grill or until the breadcrumbs start browning. Serve immediately.