Cooking Farmed Abalone

I got a call from my buddy, John. He was in Korea Town and had found this fish store that had live, farm raised abalone as well as all kinds of other ... interesting stuff that ... could be eaten. He said I had to come over and get this together.

We were going to break in his new kitchen by making a grand meal. Since neither of us had ever prepared the small farmed abalone, he wanted me to confab about how to cook it.

You have to break in a new kitchen right.
The abalone were in sea water in a plastic bag in an ice chest. John said there were hundreds in a tank at the store. They really clamped down when the clerk tried to get them. They were cute little things.
Now I've prepared hundreds of wild caught legal sized abalone from 5.5 inch black abalone to fat 10 inch reds along with whites, greens and pinks of assorted sizes, but I have never prepared a wild or farmed 3 inch red. You're only going to get one shot at it and there are numerous ways to ruin this dish. The question was how hard was it going to be. Large abalone have a consistency somewhere between rubber and brick hard. They usually have to be sliced and pounded for any hope of edibility. Then they have to be cooked very hot or it's going to take a knife. On rare occasions you get an abalone that died happy and the meat is actually very soft and can make a great sashimi. How tough these were was going to determine how they had to be prepared.

The first question is how to get them out of the shell. I should have brought my full sized abalone iron. It would have been perfect. Instead I used a spreading knife. You don't want to cut out the abalone, you want to separate it from its shell. So you part scrape it out and you part pry it.

As soon as I got it out, I knew what it would take to cook it. It was as hard as a rock. It was going to need a flash cooking.

At this point a large kitchen is nice. Debbie was preparing fresh mushrooms, cucumber, broccoli and scallions. The abalone was to be the appetizer, but that didn't stop me from raiding the mushrooms. John was going to cook some whole fish for the main event.
The abalone have two, sort of skirts around the central foot. These need to be cut off. The upper one is the guts and the head. The lower one is all the little sensor antennas that stick out around the abalone from under its shell when it is not clamped down. It takes a small sharp knife to take these off and you want to cut carefully as not to lose any of the abalone meat or cut open the gut. The way to cut these off is looking down at the abalone with the head (look for it) turned towards you, at 6 o’clock. You want to cut clockwise starting at about 7 o’clock, just clockwise from the head. When you get to the guts, turn the abalone upside down so that the guts pull away from the foot. When you get almost to the head, 5 o’clock, cut in a little to cut out the head. Cut out as little as possible. You do basically the same a bit lower to take off the next skirt. Cut it even with the outside of the central foot. Then you have to clean everything. The foot would be cut off on a big abalone, but on these little ones just scrape it clean with a knife or a good brush. There is a black slime coating around the sides of the foot itself. This too must be scraped off with a brush or knife. I used a knife. Then clean everything pristine with fresh water.

Because of the size, I decided to cut the foot into two slices before pounding. It probably wasn't necessary. The pieces were pounded with s regular sized ab pounder.

John was trying to find suitable spices in the new kitchen, but Debbie had thrown most of them out at the beginning of the kitchen remodel. He finally found a nice fresh bottle of garden herb spice for salads. It would provide the mild spicing needed. No garlic needed for this dish.
John had things situated and started heating olive oil in a stainless sauce pan. He tossed in some butter and was about to put in the abalone when he hit the stops. The butter had already started burning. It would ruin the abalone. He cleaned out the pan and started the olive oil heating again. This time he sprinkled the herbs on the abalone and put some butter on those. When the oil was hot again, he flipped the abalone over into the pan. Stir, flip, stir. In about 20 seconds it was done. The abalone was as tender as it comes. It cut just fine with a fork. The flavor was excellent. This was sautéed abalone at its finest right out of the pan. John started frying up the two snappers for the main event. The mushrooms and scallions were sautéed in the same pan with the flavoring from the abalone. During the meal, John pulled out another surprise from the market, Kim Che. Now I know all about that from my time in the Silicon Valley, but I had never tried it. ... Hot hot hot, pepprer and garlic! This wasn't near as pungent as I have smelled before and was pretty darn good. It all made a fantastic meal to sit down and enjoy slowly. Everybody had a good time.

Monterey Abalone Company
Carlsbad Aqua Farm
The Abalone Farm

Enjoy, seahunt

Back To The Recipes