Abalone is often known more for its exquisite iridescent shell than for its meat.
But the “snail of the sea,” as some call it, can make for a delicious dish. Even better in this age of environmental consciousness, it’s grown locally at the Abalone Farm in Cayucos. The farm is the nation’s largest red abalone producer, growing and selling nearly 1 million abalone annually, much of which is exported to Asia.
Comparable in taste and texture to calamari and scallops, the farm’s abalone is available locally as steaks at the Cayucos Super Market or live on the pier at Port San Luis in Avila. A handful of local restaurants serve it, including Hoppe’s Garden Bistro in Cayucos and Windows on the Water in Morro Bay.
If you’re playing to buy some abalone steaks to cook at home, brace yourself for sticker shock: these aquaculture-raised steaks fetch $75 per pound, which means you may want to serve it as an appetizer or light entrée.
Environmentally, eating farm-raised abalone is guiltless. It’s on the sustainable seafood list of Seafood watch.org (a program through the Monterey Bay Aquarium).
Brad Buckley, marketing manager of the Abalone Farm, says abalone can be prepared in a variety of ways, but he provided two recipes that are sure to impress family and friends this holiday season.
Bacon-wrapped barbecued abalone is recommended as an afternoon appetizer or as a first course for a holiday meal. The breaded medallions are a more traditional way to serve abalone and work well as a main course.
Cut the strips of bacon in half and place in a shallow pan. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes to cook off some of the fat. Do not allow the bacon to crisp. Remove from the oven, drain and cool.
Lightly salt the abalone steaks and coat with lime olive oil. Place a strip of pineapple along the long edge of each steak and roll the steak around the pineapple. Roll a piece of bacon around each steak. Secure with two toothpicks. Place in a shallow tray with teriyaki sauce to marinade for 5 to10 minutes.
Then, barbecue over indirect heat until the bacon is lightly browned or about 15 to 20 minutes.
Slice the hors d’oeuvres in half between the two toothpicks and serve.
Serve with your choice of chilled white wine or a light red wine.
Melt butter and jam in a saucepan over low heat. Add white wine. Adjust the amount of each ingredient to suit your taste. Keep warm.
Gently remove abalone steaks from their vacuum packs (They’re available in packs of four at the Cayucos Market).
Dip abalone steaks in egg whites and then the cracker crumbs. Evenly coat both sides of abalone steaks.
Grease a preheated skillet completely with butter. Place 2 or 3 abalone steaks in pan and cook over medium-high heat for 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side or until lightly brown. Place cooked abalone steaks on a warm platter. Wipe the pan clean with a towel between batches if the butter begins to scorch.
After cooking all of the steaks, add more butter to the skillet and the slivered almonds. Cook until lightly browned. Sprinkle over the platter of abalone steaks. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top.
Place 3 or 4 abalone steaks on each plate with a lemon wedge. Drizzle sauce over abalones and serve.