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. Read on for the recipe.