Abalone Recipes Await the Return of Abalone Season
Abalone recipes and cookbooks still have their use, despite the closure of the Northern California Red Abalone Season by the California Fish and Game’s Commission since 2018. Luckily for us, Red Abalone, or “ab” as we call it, continue to be available for purchase. And best of all they are delivered from sustainable aquaculture operations located in coastal California from Goletta to Monterey. They are available for purchase live, or freshly packaged to be shipped directly to your home.
California Abalone Farms
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program names California farmed abalone a “best choice” because it’s a healthy, sustainable pick. There are four abalone farms in California, none of them located in the North Bay Area.
While I have not yet tested their abalone, I’m assured they can be delivered directly to your home as fresh as the day they were hauled out of the tank. In fact, you could order them to arrive at the doorstep of Abalone Bay for preparation there while on vacation!
- American Abalone Farms grows California Red Abalone right on the beach at 245 Davenport Landing Road, Davenport. Farmstand open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Also sold at Lucky Seafood in Oakland, Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco and H-Mart in San Jose; through seafood delivery companies Sea Forager Seafood, Real Good Fish and FreshCatch; and at many Bay Area restaurants.
- Monterey Abalone Company cultivates their abalone under a commercial wharf in Monterey
- The Cultured Abalone Farm is located in the Santa Barbara channel of Goletta, California since1989
- The Abalone Farm’s Ocean Rose brand Abalone Steaks are available through their distributors. Below is a video tour of The Abalone Farm to give an idea of how they are grown.
The Taste for Abalone in California History
The sweet delicate meat of the abalone (foot muscle) has been a favorite of California coastal dwellers for ages. Native Americans on the Channel Islands harvested abalone for at least 12,000 years. In fact, archaeological sites around the world, ranging from 100,000-year-old deposits at Blombos Cave in South Africa to historic Chinese indicate the marine gastropod mollusk was cherished for both food and decorative purposes, given the beauty of the shells’ mother of pearl.
Chinese immigrants came to the San Francisco coast for the “Abalone Rush” in the early 1850s, to scavenged the shellfish. In fact, by 1879 over 4 million pounds of red abalone had been harvested by the Chinese. The big snails were dried and exported to China. Later Japanese fishermen joined in, using more sophisticated and efficient methods to reach farther into the abalone population with boats and diving suits to harvest them from the bottom.
The Making of Monterey’s Abalone King
By the turn of the 20th century, restaurants in Monterey were testing new ways of preparing abalone. The challenge they faced was how to make the rubbery gastropod into an epicurean delight. “Pop” Ernest Doelter, crowned the “Abalone King” in 1908, discovered the trick. Drawing from his Germanic culinary heritage, he applied the same technique to abalone steaks as he did to cooking wiener schnitzel.
Abalone King’s Secret Recipe Unveiled
Pop Ernest first cut the foot into steaks, then pounded them to break up the shoe-leather like connective tissues. Next, he seasoned the tenderized pieces with salt and pepper, adding his secret ingredient, “abalone nectar” (the juice that came out of the shell). He quickly dipped it into an egg wash, rolled it in cracker crumbs and cooked it quickly in olive oil or butter. Soon he became the toast of the town, with tourists and celebrities alike flocking to Pop’s table to enjoy his famous recipe. Of course, each plate of the luscious mollusk was washed down with a cold German beer.
Pan Pacific International Exhibition
Eventually, he shipped by train steaks on ice to hotels and restaurants throughout the state, including San Francisco’s famous Hof Brau Restaurant. Later with the Pan Pacific International Exhibition, canned abalone was featured as a free souvenir at the Point Lobos Monterey Abalone Company booth. For visitors wanting more, they sent them on down the road to sample Pop’s recipe dished up at the Hof Brau.
You can find more of Pop Ernst’s famous Abalone Recipes in The Abalone King of Monterey: “Pop” Ernest Doelter, Pioneering Japanese Fishermen & the Culinary Classic that Saved an Industry by Tim Thomas (2014).
My Favorite Book of Abalone Recipes
Just about every cook or chef has their favorite book of recipes. In this case, my personal favorite book of abalone recipes is Abalone From Sea to Saucepan: A Handy Guide and How to Spot, Catch & Cook ‘Em by
In fact, I love this book so much, I bought a copy to share with you while you stay at Abalone Bay! You’ll love the cartoon drawings giving you not only great recipes of California’s Golden Gastropod, or Sirloin of the Sea but also insight on the abalone in general.
Step One In Preparing Abalone: Tenderize, Tenderize, Tenderize
…Or as my husband recommends- “Beat the hell out of it!”
The mollusk when whole and raw, is one extremely tough muscle. Beating it prior to preparation helps relax it into tenderness. Of course, you can always use a kitchen hammer to whack the muscle silly, but the old-timers would use a wooden mallet. Some would even use a baseball bat. Using a wooden mallet or the back of a heavy spoon to pound the strips flat helps prevent the meat from shredding or tearing.
My mother-in-law would occasionally pressure cook the whole abalone then slice the tender abalone vertically. Even still, she’d give it a good solid whack or two just for good measure.
Slice and Pound
A preferred method is to slice it thinly and gently pound the slices a little thinner. The pounding serves to break up the muscle which yields rich and flavorful pieces. To prepare a whole abalone, pounding will take longer. You may even want to set up teams to help out,
Once you flatten the muscle the abalone is now ready to eat or cook.
Abalone Song by George Sterling (1913)
Oh! some folks boast of quail on toast
Because they think it’s tony;
But I’m content to owe my rent
And live on abalone…
The “Abalone Song” began its life during the founding days of Carmel Beach with George Sterling and his bohemian friends around 1905. They enjoyed picnics at the beach that included an abalone stew gathered and cooked in a small, black, pot. As they pounded the abalone to tenderize it, they would write and sing these little ditties. They first appeared in Pop Ernest’s Monterey restaurant, the Cafe Ernest, guest book in 1913. Jack London, Sterling’s best friend, published a version in “The Valley of the Moon” also in 1913. In 1920, George Sterling wrote out his own version of the abalone song and privately printed it to give out to his friends.
The Perfect Verse for Pounding
Today, there are hundreds of verses of the abalone song. Our favorite verse to pound with goes like this:
We sit around and pound and pound,
But not with acrimony
Because our object is a gob
Of sizzling abalone.
Abalone Song Bach Style
During the 2016 annual Carmel Bach Festival at the Carmel Presbyterian Church, thee Carmel Muse chamber music concert program had a surprise encore — the Abalone Song, The vocal soloists kicked the song off, and it quickly became a sing-along! David Newman wrote the arrangement that includes references to Bach and all sorts of other music.
Sing along with their presentation posted on the Carmel Beach Bach Festival Facebook page:
Cleaning the Abalone
Before you can prepare the abalone recipes you must first shuck it from the shell.
This video demonstrates how to clean an ab harvested along harvested by a recreational diver along our Northern California coast.
Cultured Abalone Farm shows how to prepare one of their smaller farmed abalones.
Our Favorite Way to Prepare Abalone
When we could dive for abalone in our youth it was always in conjunction with a camping trip to Ocean Cove, Salt Point or the Gualala River Campgrounds. There was nothing better after a day of “popping abs” off the rocks than to have freshly prepared abalone steaks al fresco by the campfire. The general consensus among our family and friends to prepare this temperamental dish was to slice it thin, using a wavy pattern, then dredge it in flour, salt, and pepper. Pop it into a pan of heated olive oil or butter for ONLY ONE MINUTE on each side. Then devour it immediately.
A similar recipe was to dip the ab-steaks into a bath of beaten eggs, roll it around bread crumbs (we recommend plain, though Italian would work too) then fry them quickly in oil flavored with garlic.
However you fry it, the trick is NOT to overcook it. Overcooking defeats all the effort you put into beating the hell out of it in the first place!
Serve your abalone steaks with lemon slices and fresh garlic bread and lots and lots of fish stories from the past.
If you enjoy abalone raw, serve the chilled abalone with a spritz of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, or a bit of soy sauce with a dab of wasabi.
A Tip for the Cook
When preparing abalone, be sure you make two slices at a time…one for the guests, one for you to eat at the stove or campfire. This assures YOU actually get a warm slice.
Abalone Recipes from Abalone Farms’ Websites
Below find recipes from on each of the abalone farm websites. Each site listed has many recipes to choose from.
American Abalone Farms-
American Abalone Farms provides you with one video on how to shuck a small abalone, three videos of recipes ( Fried Abalone Steaks, Abalone Porridge, Baja Abalone Stir Fry.) and one recipe for preparing Dungeness Crab.
Though Cultured Abalone shared how to prepare abalone, they did not have any recipes ready yet. In the meantime “Save this link”.
Monterey Abalone Company-
Monterey Abalone Company provides 17 of its more popular suggestions for how to prepare abalone. Recipes show the preparation of fresh, frozen or parboiled abalone. Click on the recipe for details.
Abalone Farms’ list of recipes can be found here. They also recommend the Recipe DVD ‘Abalone – Gourmet Essence of the Sea’. All you need to know about purchasing and preparing abalone with seven recipe videos and suggested wine pairings. After touring the Abalone Farm, you’ll travel to The Black Cat Bistro in Cambria. There, you will walk you through the detailed preparation of sumptuous abalone recipes anyone can prepare. Includes bonus features and iPod versions for use in the kitchen. Order the DVD today for $24.99 from Amazon by clicking here.
“BBQ With Bobby Flay” showcases Abalone Farms’ abalone prepared as Grilled Abalone Steak and Fruit Skewers in video and written recipe.
A Fascinating Recipe for Abalone
Finally, our last recipe for abalone comes from the PPGallery Facebook Page.
This recipe’s title is: abalone teppanyaki w/ black truffle ??????. What makes this recipe unique is its preparation while still in the shell. You can view it here:
Share Your Favorite Abalone Recipes
Are you a diver with field experience in plucking, popping, and preparing for a feast of the gods? Do you have an old time favorite recipe for abalone? Perhaps you have a recipe book chock full of awesome recipes you’d like to share? Let us know about them in the comments below.
Meanwhile, keep your fingers crossed. Hopefully California Fish and Wildlife will reopen the Northern California waters once again to recreational harvesting of abalone.
In the meantime Bon Appetite!