Abalone Amore

My trophy.

I’ve never hunted anything in my life — unless you count a pair of Prada boots hidden at the bottom of a consignment store bin that was one-third its original price.

The one time I went fishing, I caught zilch.

And me and a wild boar hopefully never will set eyes upon each other in this lifetime or any other.

Still, I do have what I consider a trophy of sorts.

It’s my two abalone shells.

When I wrote a story about abalone a few years ago for the San Jose Mercury News, the proprietors of the California Abalone Co., who sell live ones off a boat in Half Moon Bay, gave me two to try. I carefully put them in my cooler in the back ofย  the car, and drove home with my precious, expensive cargo.

Mind you, I’ve shucked clams and oysters before, but never an abalone. In researching the article, though, I was able to watch the very talented Chef David Kinch of Manresa demonstrate how to excavate the abalone, with its big, strong, suction-like foot from its single shell.

At home, armed with that knowledge, I did what any smart woman would do: I made my husband shuck them.

Hey, it’s what men are for, right? Well, that and killing big spiders.

Meat Boy — or shall I call him Ab Boy in this instance — got to work on the table in the backyard. He slid a big stainless steel spoon between the abalone and its shell, and separated them. Then, he cut off the innards, and trimmed off the dark, curly, unattractive edges of the abalone.

Using a mallet, I gave each abalone a whack to tenderize them and make them more uniform in shape. Then, I dredged them in flour and sauteed them in butter in a hot pan until they were golden. Fresh lemon juice was squirted over the top before we dug in.

The abalones, sweet, tender, almost like firmer scallops, were absolutely sublime.

Afterward, I cleaned the lovely iridescent shells. They may not hang prominently above my fireplace mantle. But they are every bit the most prized and most beautiful trophies a girl could have.

California is the only state in the country that has abalone farms. And farmed abalone is one of the most sustainable seafood species around, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch” guide.

To learn more about where to buy abalone in Northern California, read my story in the November/December issue of Via magazine. Once you have your fresh abalones in hand, follow Chef Kinch’s method for preparing them, and you can’t go wrong.

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  • That’s how my mom used to make abalone and why it is my favorite, dream food! Thanks for the memory…

  • Yummm! But no abalone sashimi?!

  • Steve-I tried Abalone sashimi in Japan and was so disappointed. fried is the way to go!

  • lol “… I did what any smart woman would do: I made my husband shuck them.” It was your MercNews article that drove me to drive to Half Moon Bay and fetch some of those precious yumables–only I had to take ’em to sushi restaurant in Redwood City to shuck, pound and prepare ’em. Smart women definitely rule …

  • those things scare me! I’m afraid I would pop open the shell and it would eat my face.

    Of course, now I’m dying to try it for myself!

  • I used to eat a lot of this as a child at big Chinese family dinners (often with black shitake mushrooms), but I think they were from a can. Now they’re so expensive fresh that I rarely eat them. I guess I have to go hunting for them myself, except I can’t see myself hanging off the side of a rock near the ocean getting to them!

  • I like abalone, though I really can’t remember the last time I had it. Breaded and sauteed in butter sounds perfect. And I think the shells are so beautiful, definitely worth keeping and displaying.

  • When I attended Cal Poly we used to free dive for them off the cliffs of Avila Beach. We used baseball bats to pound them and then breaded and sauteed them in a cast iron skillet over an open bonfire right there on the beach! Still dream about those fun and delicious beach adventures!

  • I do have an abalone shell! I tried it once and thought it was rubbery so am guessing it was over cooked. I like what sharon c. says about her experience with it.

  • I haven’t had abalone in forever… yum!!!

  • I don’t think I have ever had abalone. Now I want to try it… I loved your story! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Abalone is one thing that scares to me a little to try cooking myself .. but an Abalone sashimi can be good to relish in a restaurant ๐Ÿ˜€



  • My brother-in-law used to go diving for them. They prepared them two different ways for us:

    First, they froze the meat, then sliced thin ribbons of abalone off the edges. Then they simply marinated the abalone strips in lemon juice and fish sauce, and added some chopped Thai basil, chopped peanuts and chopped chiles. Talk about good! Sweet and crunchy, not chewy.

    Second, they cut the abalone into slightly thicker slices and stir-fried them with ginger.

  • You guys are making me so hungry with all those different preparations of abalone.

    Happy Homo Homemaker: It’s not that bad to shuck them. It’s not nearly like a scene from “Alien,” I promise you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Well, I’ve just realized that I’ve never had abalone! That’s not right, i must try it very soon!

  • Oh! Love abalone, but never had it raw ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Enjoyed reading your article about abalone. My parents, along with my uncle and aunt and cousin used to “dive” for abalone at Point Arena years ago. We enjoyed sweet, fresh abalone for many years. My mother is gone now, and my dad is 90, but have good memories of those days.
    Looking forward to reading your article in Via Magazine.

  • Wow, that abalone shell is really beautiful!
    And I loved your opening paragraph…haha about the Prada boots! >.<

  • Carolyn, abalone sashimi is perhaps not as flavorful as fried in butter, but still great…a bit crunchy but tasty nonetheless. I love it breaded, fried in butter or olive oil w/lemon, as well as marinated and simmered in sake. Tempura abalone with salt is good too! Friend dives for abalone so I’m lucky to have had my share.

  • Foodgal, my goodness, that sounds so delicious! I haven’t ever tried shucking one either and probably would enlist Mr. K’s assistance too… I am so inspired to go track down those lives ones. We used to eat them with just lemon and a little soy sauce.

  • I’m so curious about abalone. I’ve never tasted it but am sure I’ll love it if I ever do. The shells are beautiful things too.

  • What a beautiful trophy, so much better than the skull my husband brought home that he found while on a cross country race. Its on top of the fridge, a place of honor. Yikes!

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