Friday, February 17, 2012

Sea Urchin. Afternoon Snack or Science Experiment?

I love pretty much everything from the sea.  Big fish, small fish, calamari, octopus, shellfish, oysters of every persuasion, and even sea urchin thanks to a great boss I had a million years ago who used to drag me to his favorite sushi place in Sacramento, CA and make me eat it topped with a quail egg.  (Man that place was good.  Fried Crispy Shrimp Heads anyone?)  

I have been buying my seafood while in Paris from the same guy at my local marché because his lines are long and have the most women in full length fur coats on any given day.  (And really, in Paris you can count on the old ladies in mink to lead you to the best shops, just not the best plastic surgeons, but I digress.)

The problem is this guy is mean.  French is very hard for me.  Like mind numbingly mental block every time I open my mouth hard.  I can read some French because of my Spanish background, and understand most culinary French, but I just don't seem to retain much practical French from my formal classes.  My teacher is great, but between the plagues my children bring home and obligations at the kids' school, I am lucky to get to class more than twice a month. My fish guy doesn't like that I can't communicate well in French.  Sometimes he gets mad and huffs about while filling my order, but mostly he just laughs at me.  And not just a, "Stupid American lady doesn't know French" laughing under his breath chuckle, he actually leans over to the other guys and makes them all laugh at me too.  (I swear someone even pointed at me once.  But since the French don't point I must have been hallucinating.)  Since I have no freaking idea what they're saying about me I usually just smile and hand over my cash and take my fantastic seafood home with me.  Not today.  

I was running late and not sure if my oyster guys would be out in my neighborhood.  Oh yes, I have oyster guys.  And they like me and nicely correct my French and then wait until I've left to make fun of me.  (I'm assuming.)  But they always throw in a few extra oysters for "the shucker" (insert joke here) so I'll buy my oysters from them until they pack up ship in the warmer months.  But today I was looking for calamari and sea bass.

So I scurry in as the market is shutting down and see that my regular guys are just about packed up.  Then I see in the distance another guy who is still with a customer and head his way.  No calamari or whole sea bass left, but he does have three choices of great looking oysters, and then I see he has sea urchin.  Yum.  I start speaking in my crappy French and guess what, he smiled at me.  Oh Dear Heaven on Earth how have I missed this nice man?  He let me butcher his language and then we spoke a bit of Franglish and managed to discuss the differences between the oysters, get some packed up and move onto the sea urchin.  I asked if I could pick them up and at the same time we both said in different languages, "A heavy one is better."  I have met my soulmate.  I am going to be dropping some dime on his seafood.  Off I went with my catch.  I will be back.

Turns out my oyster guys were indeed at their corner, so I HAD to get another half dozen (8 because they're nice) and turned those into Puglian Broiled Oysters, but that's my next post.  
Here was my take from the new guy.  I've got them split by type three on the top and three on the left and then right.  It turns out my favorites of the day, the spéciales de claire on the bottom were briny with delicious cucumber notes.  Man I could eat oysters everyday.
The Boy and The Girl were fascinated by the sea urchin and wanted to know everything about it, so that significantly delayed my afternoon snack.  We watched National Geographic videos on YouTube, read all about them on Wikipedia, poked it and prodded it and used the word "gonad" about a dozen times.  (Science is fun!) Then we dispatched the darling with my poultry shears and the children made horrified faces and stuck their tongues out.  
Ewwww!  (My Husband would now be singing, "The Circle of Life" a la Elton John and as usual I would roll my eyes, but he's out with our favorite bartender Will at Verjus eating Crispy Basque Pork Belly and Fried Chicken.  Lucky man.)  Needless to say the kids didn't try any, but darn tootin' sea urchin is delicious.  I only ate one piece and will make a tiny bit of Uni Cream Sauce for some pasta tomorrow.  Just a bit of cream warmed through, the uni scraped through a fine mesh strainer and chervil to garnish.  Breakfast of Champions!


Anonymous said...

Wow, just discovered your blog. I was also looking forward to Chipotle opening in Paris. Sorry to hear you're encountering the "Mean French People." I've been here for 8 years, and as a full- and part-time SAHM, and I can tell you there have always been and will always be mean people in this country. I just don't understand it. If you get a chance to read Pascal Baudry's "French and Americans, the Other Bank,' it's a free ebook. It provides some interesting insight. He did say french mentality is saddistic and I can't think of a better term to describe it as well. Hopefully it will get easier and maybe you'll get home when you're ready. But I have another american friend who says it's like a mental hospital here - we're all waiting to get out, but we're all still here! haa! I'm ready to go home.....Look forward to your postings.

Paris? Really??? said...

Thanks for the encouragement Anonymous! I absolutely understand how lucky I am to live in Paris at this time in my life. Because I know I'm not a "lifer" I'm trying to appreciate both the good and the occasional bad that comes with living in Paris.

And thank you for the recommendation; I just bookmarked P. Baudry's ebook. I'll read it tonight when I get home from Chipotle. ;-)