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Abalone Amore

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 of  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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