It's dark now, the sun has once again been swallowed by our planet's horizon, but as is the normal circumstance, its appearance and character, the play of light, the arrangement of clouds, the way the sun hung whole just above the sea momentarily before being magnified brilliantly by the earth's atmosphere making it look momentarily like a giant squashed lemon, and it was in fact unique, as every single sunset is. We think of sunsets as ordinary somehow but they're not, not when you are in a place where you can truly appreciate what you're looking at.
What day is it? Perhaps Wednesday...no wait, Thursday, for sure it's Thursday. Ok, I'm not completely unplugged, some news does reach us, we did get word of the Swiss Franc/Euro divorce after their brief three year marriage: markets in turmoil once again, currency speculators in tatters, the ECB with its panties all in a wad...hmmmm...but in all honesty what's new about the news? Not much, so we'll move on to a more interesting subject; the sea urchin.
For anyone who has never had the opportunity to dip one's finger into the delicate golden goodness of a freshly cracked sea urchin, my apologies, and for anyone who saw the opening scene from the movie "The 100 Hundred Foot Journey" (or read the book) and wondered if that kid really did experience culinary ecstasy in front of that basket of live sea urchins, the answer is yes he did.
One of the wonderful things about the Caribbean is that it's still a place where you can forage for your dinner, and we're talking serious gourmet-food-show kind of foraging, like stuff that you'd pay ridiculous bucks for in New York or Paris, but here a person can, with a little effort, find lying around for free.
So imagine the excitement on board FG, a boat with a well established reputation for serious "foodie-ness", when we discovered the sand beneath our most recent anchorage was a carpet of fat, healthy, West Indian Sea Eggs. Considered the most desirable of of the edible Caribbean Sea urchin species, they are a traditional food of the southern islands of St Lucia and Martinique where they're harvested during the winter months then roasted in their shell over hot coals.
After a brief survey for population sustainability, our resident Samurai fishermen Andrea went free-diving Polynesian style and quickly retrieved a box full of the plump spiny critters. So what did we do with all those urchins you ask? Well after sampling a few specimens raw right from the shell, Carmen set to work harvesting the delicate golden lobes of "roe", that actually aren't really roe but in fact the gonads of the urchin, of which they each have five, but "roe" just sounds better, ok enough biology class. Being an Italian crew, on an Italian yacht, there was really only one proper dish to prepare with our bounty; a classic Pasta Ricci, a delicacy of the Italian Mediterranean, "ricci" is the Italian word for sea urchin.
Before last summer my only experience eating fresh sea urchin was as Uni, the exotic Japanese sushi, but it was in Sardinia that we were introduced to the unique Italian preparation where the fresh raw "ricci" is mixed with warm pasta. It's a rare and seasonal dish in Italy, something a lucky Italian might enjoy once or twice a year at best; a true delicacy.
Savoring our Caribbean Sea Eggs fresh from the shell was an extraordinary experience, I found the flavor much sweeter and milder than the ones we'd eaten in the Med, but this may have also been the result of our urchin's immediate freshness. The texture of the roe is softer and more gelatinous than the California variety popular with sushi chefs, however, the flavor is every bit as tasty. Carmen first prepared a seasoned olive oil by infusing it with a bit of dry chilly and garlic.
The pasta was prepared, and yes, we carry on board our own stock of top shelf Neapolitan made pasta, which as most Italians will agree, is where Italy's finest pastas originate. Once the pasta is ready, it's then tossed with the seasoned oil along with a bit of pasta water, then in went our fresh ricci which Carmen gently folded into the pasta mixture just moments before serving. Once plated, it didn't last long. One word of warning though, fresh urchin is said to have a similar, some say an even more powerful affect on the libido than oysters on the half shell; enjoy.
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