Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mad for Abalone!

Okay, it's been a little crazy around here for 3 days. It started the day I arrived here in Northern Cal just in time to accompany my brother, his wife and his brother-in-law and all their families to the Pacific coast- to Ft Bragg on their quest for the rock sucking, crusty, barnacle-backed abalone.

To bag this rare beast, one must wear a protective suit to keep your blood from gelling in the frigid Pacific. (Here is a photo of the fearless abalone hunters Dan my bro's brother-in-law and Jim- my bro.)

One must wear a weight belt (to help you descend low enough) and carry a flat utinsel that helps you knock the little guys off of the rocks. So there is some trickiness, a little danger and some grit involved in the whole sport.
This might satiate my brother's yearly lust for that dangerous-excursion-culminating-in-killing activity. And it would also give my sister-in-law that taste of the fear-of-husband-killing-himself-while-on-dangerous-excursion-culminating-in-killing. Our father was a hunter that would bring home a mega-pound elk every fall (one year it was 800 pounds.) So what was some measly abalone flesh in comparison?

Tales of the dangers of abalone hunting abounded before we left. Men diving 30 feet into the kidney-numbing pacific ocean battling gigantic bulbous kelp that have ensnared less-prepared abalone hunters. And the story about the guy who got his head eaten off by a great white shark last year while hunting for abalone in this same locale. How fun!!

Jim and Dan both got 3 abalones each. Jim likes to say that his were 8 and 3/4th while Dan's were 7 inches. Like it matters how big they were.. then again, a few inches is a big deal to men isn't it.

I wanted to find an abalone myself, but was less than enthusiastic about wearing the weights while wielding that blunt object under the ocean. And was deterred by the $100 out-of-state fishing license too. So I opted to hunt for abalone shells (they are so pretty.) Besides, look at this critter!!

I saw sea anenomes as big as a wagon wheel- really- giant star-fish and was caught like a pickle in a washing machine-like swishing of briney water, enormous slimy sea onions (kelp) and dancing sea grass, which altogether made the whole experience a little disorienting. Jim (my brother) had to point out a few shells and encourage me to relax while bobbing next to a kelp covered outcropping. I was freezing and was afraid I'd run out of breath before I reached the abalone shell. After I got my shell, we flippered back to shore. I was feeling quiet frozen and said to Jim numbly, "I'm feeling a little hypodermic," scaring myself a bit because "hypodermic" came out rather than "hypothermic," a clear sign that I was already under the spell of the cold.

Needless to say, we made it back to shore victorious. I with my pretty shell and a borrowed unmarred (thankfully) $500 wet suit. My only calamity was a razor-like gash from sharp barnacles on the fleshy part of my palm. It's healing nicely though.

Onto dinner.

Here's Jim scooping out the thing:


Here's what they look like when scooped out. They clean up nice!

That night as I tried to sleep, I heard Jim pounding away (like a character out of an Egdar Allen Poe story) at the thin strips of abalone meat he had cut off the monster mollusk. It was a little maddening trying to sleep to that pounding. . . bang, bang bang with the meat tenderizer. Best case scenario when eating an abalone is to cook it when it's still alive. After it's been soaking in a Costco cooler in the back of a van for a day, the abalone gets a little solidified.

During Jim's evening tenderizing ritual, the doorbell rang and in came Dan, Jim's brother-in-law who had come with us abalone diving. He had a bowl of pasta noodles and aldredo sauce and guess what? Strips of abalone. I tried a few, which tasted faintly like chicken, but really and less flavorful than even a boca burger. But it wasn't bad. The night after, Jim fried up fat sections fish-n-chips style and they were great!

Forgot to mention, sometimes you can find a pearl in the abalone if you palipatate their gonads after capture. No pearl in these abalones, but Jim did find a batman toy, (look to left of abalone.) How cool is that!

Jim cranked up the deep fryer and used the recipee below for all of you who want to try this at home.

Cut into strips

Dredge in cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper and garlic powder

Dip in a beer batter (beer, cornstarch, pepper, flour and egg.)

Dip in panko (Japanese) bread crumbs

Deep fly until crispy brown :)

Dip final crispy mollusk strips into chipotle sauce:

Chipotle sauce for dipping:

Recipee for 2 fat cloves of garlic, 1 cup mayo, 1/4 cup dijon, 2 T of diced chipotle chili, 1/2 teas. adobo seasoning (Mexican seasoning) 1 tablespoon of white wine

Here's the "Abalone Disco," compliments of my nephew Andrew Skoy.