There were plenty of reasons to call me a strange child, but close to the top was my early gastronomic propensity towards “sea oddities.” You know, lobster heads, the guts of fried soft-shell crabs and orange-hued sea urchin — grossest-looking of them all. While everyone was drawn to Happy Meals, I was obsessing over the next time I would taste salmon roe.
I’ve never been to an Asian market that didn’t sell reasonably fresh sea urchin — some nicer than others, but all better than no sea urchin at all. Unless of course it’s super-deflated, too brown instead of orange or just generally very sad-looking. Then no sea urchin at all is better and you should find something else to eat for lunch. Recently, I was trying to figure out a way to incorporate sea urchin into lunchtime in any way that made sense. A lot of Japanese menus don’t feature uni-don, sea urchin over sushi rice, though most places will make it if you ask (and will be only too happy to charge you an arm and a leg). It’s really good in a rice ball, something I’m a huge fan of hiding crazy little surprises in, but my very favorite way to eat sea urchin is in pasta, preferably spaghetti.
You can’t have sea urchin spaghetti for lunch at the office.
Yes. You. Can. And here’s how.
I packed a good-sized serving of cooked spaghetti tossed with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking together in a container with a tight-fitting top, along with a tray of sea urchin and a foil-wrapped pat of butter I stole from the diner down the street. Hey, don’t leave them out where food writers can abscond with them, we’re sneaky Petes. Also, I like how I bought expensive and hard-to-find seafood and stole diner butter. Never a dull moment Chez Jess.
Here’s what you do: microwave the spaghetti until it’s really hot, immediately top it with butter and sea urchin, put the lid on the container and let it sit for a few minutes. The heat and steam from the pasta will melt both the butter and sea urchin enough that when you toss it with a fork, it will form a thick, clingy sauce that needs nothing more than a sprinkle of sea salt and a SUPER-smug face because you just hacked like, a $35 dish at a fancy Italian restaurant for lunch at the office. So take that, Fresh Steamers or whatever those lame cook-your-pasta-in-the-microwave things are called.
Now for you naysayers who are going to hunt me down for using the microwave in a sea urchin recipe, let me point out that I kept all the components separate — combining them only at the last minute like you would do with spaghetti fresh out of the pot. The sea urchin itself is never microwaved because that would kill it dead all over again and totally negate the point of this wildly elaborate lunch operation. Plus, that was $10 you didn’t spend on a salad you’re going to start heavily resenting 2/3 of the way through, like I did yesterday.
More interesting fish for lunch on Food Republic: