A treat for people and some adorable furry friends.
Boiled abalone by bfishadow, on Flickr
The word abalone is used to refer to any one of over 50 species of molluscs with a spiral shell. The easiest way to identify them are by the row of holes–respiratory pores, really–on the shell. Like mussels, they cling to rocks; humans have harvested them for generations for their shells, a source of mother-of-pearl.
The meat tends to be fairly tough when it’s collected (although, supposedly, electrocuting the abalone results in a softer meat), so it tends to be cooked in ways designed to mitigate this characteristic. In Vietnam, they shred and braise the meat; in Japan, slices of abalone sashimi still crunch when you bite them; in China, the meat is dried, then reconstituted as parts of other dishes; and in Chile, they pound the abalone to tenderize it, then give it a good long soak in citrus.
While globally, abalone have been consumed for as long as anyone can remember, Americans started to eat them around the late 19th and early 20th century, as noted in the July 16, 1904 edition of The Logan (Utah) Republican:
Fad for Abalone
In California there is a fad for eating abalone, a large mussel, which furnishes the beautiful shell used for ornamental purposes. The Chinese have eaten them for years, but until recently Americans scorned them as food. Now abalone chowder, soup, and oven abalone steaks are considered great delicacies In San Francisco.
In the last 20 years, the commercial catch of abalone has been cut in almost half. If you want to look on the negative side, that’s partially because it’s a delicacy that commands a high price, so it’s often gathered by poachers. But if you want to look on the positive side, in California, expanding populations of protected sea otters have moved into areas where abalone are fished because they’re a delicious treat for the adorable li’l otters…
From the box of C.C. from Ceres, California.
Cream of Abalone Soup
1 cup diced potatoes
1 cup clam juice
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped carrots
3 springs parsley
1/4 cup butter
1 lb. ground abalone
2 Tbsp. flour
1 qt. hot milk
1 tsp. Accent
1 can minced clams
1/2 lb. fresh-cut shrimp or prawns
salt and pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes and carrots in the clam juice. Saute onions and celery in butter until golden. Add abalone and continue to saute. Gradually add flour; mix well.
Add hot milk and stir until well blended. Finally add potatoes, Accent, salt, and pepper. Serve at once.
From Bess Knabb