Empellón-Grade Sea Urchin Guacamole Tacos

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Taco benders will never be the same, thanks to Alex Stupak's seductive guide to Empellón-grade fare at home. The pollo and carnitas are as solid as ever, but look beyond the expected and you'll be well rewarded with fresh, inventive spins wrapped in homemade tortillas. Your neighborhood taqueria workers will miss you, but if they saw this sea urchin–studded creation, they'd understand. 

This taco was born out of a shared opinion among my cooks and friends that a tortilla is as worthy of precious ingredients as any piece of Raynaud china. When I thought about making a sea urchin taco, I knew that working it into guacamole would magnify the briny sweetness the spiky creature is known for — the fat in an avocado can help stretch and carry flavors just like a knob of butter. Its lobes (sometimes called "tongues") show up three times in this taco: mashed with avocado, piled on top of the guacamole in a bright orange heap and combined with chipotle and lime juice in a simple salsa. The sea urchin and avocado have a similar luscious texture, and biting into this taco is a bit like face-planting into a just-fluffed pillow or planting a raspberry on a fat baby's belly.

It's over-the-top opulent, the kind of celebratory dish that everyone deserves an occasion to eat. When the time comes, you'll need a ton of urchin — 156 tongues. Many fishmongers and Japanese grocers (who call them uni) sell them preshucked by the tray, so you won't have to mess with those spiky shells.

Reprinted with permission from Tacos

Empellón-Grade Sea Urchin Guacamole Tacos
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  • 36 sea urchin tongues
  • 3 canned chipotle chilies
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Maldon, or flaky salt, as needed
  • 2 Hass avocados
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 60 cilantro leaves (from about 15 sprigs)
  • Maldon, or flaky salt, as needed
  • 72 sea urchin tongues
  • 48 sea urchin tongues
  • Maldon, or flaky salt, as needed
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 60 cilantro leaves (from about 15 sprigs)
  • 2 limes
  • 12 tortillas
  1. :::sea urchin salsa:::
  2. In a small bowl, combine the 36 sea urchin tongues with the chipotles, sugar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and Maldon salt.
  3. Use a fork to gently crush the ingredients together. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. :::filling:::
  5. Cut open the avocados, remove their pits, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add the ½ minced white onion, serrano chile, 3 tablespoons lime juice, chopped cilantro, Maldon salt, and 72 sea urchin tongues.
  6. Use a fork or an avocado masher to gently mash the guacamole and set aside. Make one batch of tortillas and hold them warm.
  7. :::assembly:::
  8. Lay out the warm tortillas on serving plates. Place a few tablespoons of the sea urchin guacamole on each tortilla and evenly distribute the 48 urchin tongues among the tacos.
  9. Season with salt and top with the sea urchin salsa, minced onion, and chopped cilantro.
  10. Squeeze a couple of the lime wedges over the tacos and serve the rest on the side.
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