Sea urchin roe. The Japanese know it as uni, and it's one of the greatest indulgences when it comes to seafood: rich, creamy, buttery and briny all at once. One or two pieces is all you'll usually find on a restaurant dish so when Pig Flyin' sent me a photo of one kilo of uni for a upcoming Stomachs Eleven dinner party, I cleared the diary. Stat.
Tonight's sea urchin is purple sea urchin (also known as black sea urchin) and is native to New South Wales. Red sea urchin is also found in NSW. In Tasmania, you'll find green or white sea urchin.
The sea urchin is diver caught in NSW and sourced through Red Claw Seafood, primarily a supplier to high-end restaurants. Pig Flyin' managed to sweet-talk them into selling to a private customer, helped by a significant order that included sea urchin roe, live mud crab, sushi-grade octopus and a kilo (several sacs) of raw ocean trout roe.
Home cured ocean trout on mascarpone with a hint of yuzu served with potato chips
It's easy to forget you're dining at somebody's home when it comes to Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin'. Neither of them are chefs (nor do they work in hospitality) but the attention to detail at every dinner party they throw is ridiculously impressive. Stomachs Eleven is our little group of dedicated food lovers, created to encourage a rotation of home-hosted dinner parties, but increasingly being spoilt with far too many dinner invitations from Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin'.
We're immediately greeted with pre-dinner snacks. A bowl full of chips is at the ready for scooping into a dish of home cured ocean trout layered over homemade mascarpone. It's a dish we ate at Ronin in Hong Kong, and it's just as delightful here. The burst of saltiness is tempered by the creamy mascarpone which contrasts again with the crunch of salty potato chips.
Tamagoyaki omelette filled with unagi eel
There are delicate logs of tamagoyaki rolled omelette too, cooked in Pig Flyin's newly acquired cast iron tamagoyaki pan from Amazon.
Unagi eel inside the tamago rolled omelette
Inside we find a surprise filling of unagi eel. The rich and fatty softness of unagi melds perfectly with the plump and sweet dashi-flavoured omelette.
Adding homemade dashi broth to daikon and uni sea urchin roe
Our first uni course sees these delicate fillets perched on pedestals of daikon, slow poached in a homemade dashi broth made from this Japanese shop's bonito flakes and kombu purchased from Muroran Hokkaido (brought to Sydney by a very obliging friend).
Daikon poached in homemade dashi with uni sea urchin roe
The homemade dashi adds a beautifully nuanced flavour to the daikon, simmered long enough so your spoon carves through with ease. And we can't help but marvel at their exquisite collection of handmade vessels, especially this one made to look like a shimmering abalone shell.
Fresh uni is unlike the frozen versions you get imported from Japan. Tonight's one has a creamy subtlety and a pleasing suppleness to every bite. It doesn't have that distinct briny tang either, but there's a more elegant mellowness with every mouthful.
There's no shortage of options to imbibe this evening. Mrs Pig Flyin' is a huge fan of shochu and raids her cellar just for us. The umehu shochu with added chilli is especially good. The black bottle is awamori, a distilled liquor made from rice that is made exclusively in Okinawa.
Tempura uni sea urchin roe
The second round of uni is rolled up in shiso leaves and nori sheets and then dipped into tempura batter and deep-fried.
Tempura uni sea urchin roe wrapped in shiso leaves and nori seaweed
The uni cigars look amazing on the plate, finished with an extra shake of truffle salt across the top.
Uni sea urchin roe, shiso leaf and nori seaweed inside tempura batter
And then there's the bliss of biting through the tempura batter to find a warm huddle of uni sea urchin roe within.
Handpicked mud crab with uni sea urchin roe and lemon verbena
Uni part three is another dish inspired by our Ronin dinner (a post coming soon, I promise). Pig Flyin's execution is much the same but infinitely more generous.
2.8kg worth of mud crab with sea urchin roe
We find out that Pig Flyin' purchased two live mud crabs totalling 2.8kg in weight. These were boiled, hand-picked and then put back in the shell with curls of uni. The only variation is Pig Flyin' serves this with a chifonade of lemon verbena leaves, not the mitsuba used at Ronin.
The crab is wondrous. The flesh is firm, fresh and fragrant and it's hard not to feel like royalty as we feast upon this with glee.
Sushi grade diver-caught baby octopus prepared Korean-style raw with fuyu fruit and shiso
There was raw baby octopus too, diver-caught and sushi grade, mixed through with Korean chilli bean paste. It's served with batons of fuyu fruit and shiso that work brilliantly together in a peppery, sweet and spicy chorus.
Koji marinated charcoal with yuzukosho yuzu paste on potato puree
The same sushi-grade octopus was also served cooked, marinated in salt koji (rice malt marinated in salt) and then barbecued over charcoal until smoky. Yuzukosho or yuzu paste adds a citrusy brightness.
Dengaku nasu miso grilled eggplant
And for vegetables we have dengaku nasu, eggplant basted with miso paste and then grilled until caramelised across the surface.
Preparing spaghettini with uni sea urchin roe
More uni? Of course there was! Pig Flyin' flings handfuls of it into a pan full of spaghettini.
Uni sea urchin roe with spaghettini
Behold the most decadent pasta you could hope for. The uni is only tossed through at the last minute, clinging to the strands of pasta in buttery dollops. Extra fillets of uni are like icing on the cake.
Ocean trout roe home-cured with soy sauce and mirin
And then there's the gleaming sac of ocean trout roe I spy on the kitchen counter. Pig Flyin' has cured this at home with a mix of soy sauce and mirin.
Steamed rice with shoyu-zuke sujiko marinated ocean trout roe and uni sea urchin roe
The roe is sliced into fat wedges and then propped up on a bowls of freshly cooked rice sourced from Akita, Japan. There's more uni too, just in case we hadn't had our fill.
Carving the whole duck ballotine
And just when you thought dinner couldn't get any better, Pig Flyin' casually whips out a ballotine of duck - that's a whole duck deboned and then rolled up again with a stuffing of whole chestnuts, morels and juniper berries. Say wha-at?
Adding the cherry sauce
Whole duck ballotine deboned and stuffed with chestnuts, morels and juniper berries
Pig Flyin' says the entire bird was cooked sous vide at 75C for eight hours the night before. The duck flesh is a wonderment of succulency, sauced up with a veal and cherry jus enriched with duck bones.
The chestnuts were peeled and then cooked confit in duck fat. I feel like we're being fattened up for slaughter but we continue to hoe into the shimeji mushrooms cooked in oxtail jus and scrape up the mashed potato too.
Upside-down quince cake with homemade mascarpone
We don't go home without dessert either. Pig Flyin' hacks this butterscotch apple spice cake recipe, eliminating the butterscotch sauce, substituting the apples with quince, and replacing the light brown sugar with half white/ half maple sugars.
The quince has been slow-roasted in a bath of pinot gris, cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns, star anise and cloves. The cake tin reminds Pig Flyin' of hako-zushi or box sushi, and the neat layer of quince draped across the top does feel sushi-like.
And seriously, this cake is a winner. The cake is ladled over with extra quince syrup once it's out of the oven, soaking its way down. It almost tastes like a steamed pudding, and a generous dollop of homemade mascarpone on the side is enough to leave us all with very happy and grateful smiles on our faces.
Thanks again Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin' for another mind-blowing dinner!
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven: Bone marrow and pigs trotters by Pig Flyin'
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas dinner 2013 by Pig Flyin'
Stomachs Eleven: Deboned and stuffed pigs head by Pig Flyin'
Stomachs Eleven: Three kinds of twice-fried chicken by Pig Flyin'
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5/29/2014 12:40:00 am