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 who 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.
So when my BFF told me about a sea urchin pasta she makes for dinner parties, I found a way to sneak uni back into the palettes 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 versus $200 for the 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
- One 2-ounce tray of sea urchin
- 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp. water
- Kosher salt
- White pepper powder
- 4 oz. dried linguine
- 1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped chives, plus more for garnish
- 1 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 oz. 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 1 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 1 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.