Meet a sea urchin on the beach it can have painful consequences for bare feet, but at the table it is a delicacy that is little valued in domestic kitchens. In January we forget a little about the queer after the festivities, when precisely products as exquisite as the hedgehog are in full season.
Although they can already be found in the fishmongers since the end of November, it is in the first weeks of the year when the hedgehogs are at their best time of the year, offering us a delicious snack that is pure taste of the sea, intense but elegant, fresh and with a very particular texture. Raw or lightly cooked, it is very easy to enjoy its virtues at home.
What are sea urchins?
Also called, depending on the region, oricios, ourizos, garoinas or garotasAmong other names, sea urchins are more specifically called echinoids. There are almost a thousand different species and they belong to the echinoderm family, marine animals with a curious development in pentaradial symmetry that makes the head indistinguishable from the rest of the body.
In the specific case of hedgehogs, we find balloon-shaped animals more or less flattened with the body completely covered with spikes, of different thicknesses and lengths. They have a color between black, brown, purple and green, depending on the species and age, and their size is usually around 5-10 cm in diameter, although there are larger ones.
They are formed by calcareous plates joined together forming a shell hard on which the spikes are supported, which are mobile and in some cases poisonous. They inhabit the seabed and rocky areas, and can be found at great depths, which makes it difficult to capture.
Hedgehogs are found in waters around the world and its consumption dates back to Antiquity, when it was already highly appreciated. In our country we can enjoy sea urchins from the Atlantic, crossing the cookie coasts or the entire Cantabrian coast, and also in the Mediterranean, from the Costa Brava to Andalusia.
Properties and uses in the kitchen
The edible part of the hedgehog is inside the shell. Each animal presents radially distributed five glandular masses, the gonads, called buds. They have a slightly elongated shape and are orange in color, and can vary from the most intense red to more yellowish tones.
They should not be confused with the roe of other marine species. In the case of hedgehogs, the gonads are more like a tongue, both in shape and in their irregular texture. They are very meaty, delicate and creamy, with a flavor between iodized and musky of great intensity, something sweet.
The hedgehog yolks must be eaten when the animal is opened, the fresher the better, although we can also find them canned. Due to its delicacy, one of the best ways to taste them is directly raw, as they usually do in Japan, where the uni it is a common ingredient in sushi and sashimi, or it is used to top noodle dishes and soups.
Opening a hedgehog is easy, you just have to have watch out for the spikes and practice a good cut around the body to separate the shell into two parts. Here Pakus tells us in detail the whole process to do it at home. Consuming it directly raw, scooping out the yolks with a teaspoon, is the most traditional way of eating sea urchin and the best way to discover its flavor and texture for the first time.
Ideas to take advantage of it
You have to think of the hedgehog as we would think of caviar or a good piece of the best bonito or good bluefin tuna. It is an exquisite product in itself, very delicate, requiring maximum freshness and a minimal manipulation so as not to completely spoil its properties.
Like caviar, it can be served with small toasts of crusty bread or on blinis. If we do not want to consume it as is, we can incorporate it into a sashimi dish or prepare nigiris with its yolks, and it is also excellent for enrich a shrimp tartare, prawns or fish, or to serve with spider crab meat.
In hot dishes, its honeyed texture provides a powerful addition to sauces, emulsions, foams and reductions. A traditional way of cooking them is in the style of stuffed scallops, adding the gonads to a light béchamel enriched with cava that is used to fill the shells before gratinating them. They are also a delicacy if they are au gratin with hollandaise sauce or mayonnaise.
The hedgehog turns out exquisite on carpaccios both sailors and meat or duck, and combines very well with mushrooms and seaweed. In some areas of Italy it is used to cook pasta sauces, adding them at the last minute so as not to overcook them. Also in Japan it is melted into the broth of ramen bowls or added directly to the end, before serving.
The Water that contains the interior of the shell can be used to enrich broths, sauces and soups, although it must be used in moderation as it can be especially intense.
Another classic of the kitchen with hedgehogs is the scrambled with eggs, alone or adding some vegetables such as wild asparagus. The silky intensity of its meat is perfect to completely transform the texture and flavor of eggs, creating a dish that is as simple as it is exquisite. You just have to control the doneness so that it doesn’t go overboard.
Sea urchin and wild asparagus scramble recipe
Cut the wild asparagus into very thin slices and we sauté them in a frying pan with a little extra virgin olive oil.
Chop the hedgehog yolks, breaking them into small pieces. We are beating the eggs to have all ready by the time we go to curdle the scrambled eggs.
We add the hedgehog yolks to the pan, we stir only a few seconds and immediately we add the beaten eggs and the cream, stirring everything so that it does not set like an omelette.
The goal is to keep the scrambled moist and juicy, so in a minuteWe will approximately turn off the heat and continue stirring the contents of the pan, then transferring it to a plate so that it does not set too much.
Complete recipe | Scrambled eggs with sea urchins and asparagus
Photos | iStock – Pixabay
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