Today’s Reader Guest Post: Tammer from Oakland, California
[Tammer is a close friend who is an amazing cook. On top of this recipe, he makes a ridiculously delicious abalone ceviche that is to die for! I am constantly in awe of the creative things he comes up with in the kitchen. Enjoy!]
Eaten abalone is not soon forgotten.
It’s truth, and as an ab diver I never get tired of hearing people fondly recall an abalone feast from long ago. I’ve been diving for Red Abalone for a half-decade now and have had the pleasure of introducing many friends to this animal that was hunted for thousands of years by Native Americans along California’s coast. Today, the highly regulated take of abalone, along with the difficulty of free-diving to find these elusive sea snails, ensures that each meal is special for both the first timer and the avid diver alike. As a diver, every abalone experience is different, and it starts well before I take a bite. Even the weather matters, the surf, the water temperature, its color and clarity and its taste, the feeling in my leg muscles after finning out to a kelp bed, the deep breaths I take to purge my blood of excess carbon dioxide to trick my brain into thinking I have more oxygen than I really do. Abalone divers are adventurous by nature, and it’s no surprise that there are countless ways to prepare abalone, from thinly sliced raw strips (awabe sushi), to cured in lime for ceviche, to sautéed with butter and garlic, or baked with ricotta, spinach and marinara sauce lasagna-style. The bag limit in California is three abalone per diver. A single legal-sized abalone has enough meat to absolutely stuff two people, and three large ones can feed a village. Go diving with a couple of buddies and, if the conditions are right, you’ll be hosting an epic feast.
Abalone takes some time to prepare, but most of the initial preparation steps can be done earlier in the day, preferably as soon as you get home. Once the meat is cut and tenderized, this recipe takes little time. The process should be initiated about twenty minutes before the dinner bell is rung.
Bacon-Wrapped Abalone Poppers
- 1 Abalone, shucked, thinly sliced into large steaks, and tenderized
- 2 Cup white flour
- 3 Egg, beaten
- 4 Cup breadcrumb (I used panko)
- 12 Canned whole jalapeño or serrano (spicy!) pepper (4 or 7 oz can), stemmed and sliced lengthwise
- 5 Oz Pepper jack cheese, sliced into 1-2″ long pieces
- 0.5 Lb bacon strips
- Oil for frying (I used sunflower)
Fill a heavy skillet to a quarter inch deep with oil and heat at a medium setting staying well under the point of smoking.
Flour an abalone steak, dip in beaten egg, and coat both sides with breadcrumb. Good sense calls for using one hand for the flouring, the second hand for egging, and the first hand again for the breading to minimize battering up your fingers, but do whatever. Place a bacon strip on a plate or board and lay the breaded steak on it. Create a line of both cheese and peppers together across the center of the steak. Carefully fold the steak around the line of cheese and peppers, then spiral-wrap the bacon around the rolled up steak so that it resembles a chunky barber pole or candy-cane. Use a pair of toothpicks to secure the uncooked popper. Repeat for all the abalone steaks.
After checking the oil temperature, done by tossing in some bits of excess breaded abalone meat (browning, but not blackening, should occur in a minute or less), place one abalone popper into the skillet. A minute or so later flip the first popper and place a second one in the skillet. After another minute, remove the first popper and place on paper towel, flip popper #2, and add a third. Continue cooking until there are no more uncooked poppers. Serve and be happy.
- If eaten as a main course, remove toothpicks and serve whole. For appetizing a larger group of humans, poppers should be sliced into individually toothpicked bite-sized pieces.
- Some people choose fresh jalapeños, but I prefer the juicy pickled-in-a-can kind to cut through the melted cheese and rich ab meat.
- Serrano peppers are my favorite for this but even the carrots they’re canned with are stupid-hot so, as always, have cold beer nearby and watch where the hands go after touching a pepper.
- Traditional poppers are filled with cream cheese. I say cream cheese is for bagels, but try a fresh chèvre if you want to still go with soft and creamy.