This Jeremiah Tower recipe for Sea Urchin Soufflé made its debut in a blaze of glory this weekend and immediately claimed a place among our quintessentially Spectacularly Delicious signature dishes, alongside such triumphs as Kugelhopf Surprise, Paella NegraAebleskivers and Nachos Olga. Like any good parent, I love all my children equally, it's just that I love some a teensy bit more than others.

Props to amigo Charles Thompson of for this gift of Sea Urchin Soufflé. An early fan of S.D., Charles' advice, support and friendship has added immensely to our goings on back here on the east coast.  I think you'll be charmed by his family roots in California and his adventures seeking out the unsung glories of the contemporary L.A. food scene.  

Wise Charles knew this was a bulls-eye for S.D. How could it not be? The impressive glamour of opening sea urchins for their precious row (a.k.a. uni to sushi aficionados). Soufflé? Just my style. Baked in the shell? Could it get any better? I think not.

Now onto the glory of Sea Urchin Soufflé. You begin by extracting the roe from fresh sea urchins. Sound tricky? Well it's not. Knock knock with a heavy knife, snip snip with kitchen scissors, scoop scoop with a spoon while carefully scrape scraping out the stunningly unattractive black murk that surrounds the precious lobes or orange roe. Check out my  video of  how to  open a sea urchin.

The rest is familiar terrain. Reading the recipe includes some seeming improbabilities. Cook two ounces of butter with 1 T. flour for five minutes? How can that be possible?  It is. Simmer the stock and roux base for 20 minutes — doesn't that sound a little long? It's not. These are examples of the finely-tuned techniques that have elevated Chef Jeremiah to the highest tier of culinary geniuses. 

The right tools are essential – a wooden spoon with a pointed edge for that hard-to-reach juncture of pot bottom and side. A flat whisk for the same reason.

Once you've liberated the roe, you're home free. Yolks whirled with the roe are folded into the cooked base; clouds of whipped whites are folded in just before baking. Piled back into the shell tops of the urchins, we're talking serious drama followed by even greater delicousiosity.

In the tradition of the best soufflés these must be served immediately. They begin to lose loftiness as so soon as they hit room temp, so be ready to plate and serve. Lay down the law: absolutely no stragglers getting to table. I mean, come on, you've prepared these divine delicacies and your pals can't get their butts into their chairs in time? Unacceptable. The base and whipped whites hold well separately, so the final mix and 20 minute bake time are accurate. Brook no excuses.

Our old pal Bill was on hand to share the abundance. A sushi lover, he snagged a lobe of raw uni before they descended into soufflé production. "Now that's delcious uni!"  I thought a hand slap would be necessary to keep him from slipping a few more off the plate but giving him the stink eye kept him from depleting the cache.

And our final product? Intensly sea urchin-y, only now in a new guise of radiant, ethereal, orange soufflé rising from the spine-encrusted shell. 

Note: the original recipe calls for large sea urchins. In my neck of the woods, these smallish creatures from the frigid waters of Maine are what's on offer at our seafood shops. Proximity = freshness so I'm not advocating searching farther afield. Just be prepared with an extra small ramekin in case everything doesn't fit back into the shells. 

From Jeremiah Tower's New American Classics

4 large sea urchins
2 oz. butter
2 T.flour
1 cup fish stock (I used bottled clam juice and was completely satisfied with the outcome)
2 egg yolks
4 egg whites
s & white pepper

Open the sea urchins, cutting around the base to remove the flat bottom, keeping the domed tops for the vessels to hold the soufflés. Pick or gently rinse any black nasties on the orange lobes of roe. Clean the shell tops thoroughly.

Purees the roe with the yolks. Separately melt 1 oz. of the butter and 1 T. of the flour and cook on low for 5 minutes, stirring all the while. Add the stock or clam juice and simmer for another 20 minutes, whisking every so often.  Allow the base to completely cool to room temp, then stir in the row/yolk mix. S & white pepper.  

Heat the oven to 400°. Whip the 4 egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold the base into the whites in batches so everything is evenly colored  Butter and dust the inside of the reserved shells. Have a prepared ramekin or mini-souffle dish at the ready in case there' s more than the shells can accommodate.

Bake until they have risen and are slightly browned on top, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Immediately!

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Written by on February 1, 2011 under Appetizers, Famous Chefs, Fish and Seafood.

  • Anna Johnston

    Yep., I’ve gotta try this, just not sure I can rustle up any sea urchins. Love the video too Sean…, this totally is a SP recipe… love it.

    • Sean

      I once was snorkelling and picked up a sea urchin and broke it open and ate
      it while treading water. Just sayin’

  • Charles G Thompson

    Thank you for the kind words! I am so very happy that they were a success — as you said this dish just sounded very S.D. to me. (Many of Jeremiah’s dishes are S.D.) Now, after reading this elegantly written post, I may have to go in search of a few sea urchins myself and make this dish myself! (Loved the You Tube video on how to open them.)

    • Sean

      The home made videos are fun; I hope this one take off like “How to Make
      Carrot Flowers” which has proven the most popular

  • Jeremiah Tower

    Hello Sean,

    there is nothing better than ELEGANT, UNEXPECTED, UNUSUAL AND EXTRAORDINARY! I think your blog inspiring, and thank you for reviving the Sea Urchin Souffle.

    Best regards,

    Jeremiah Tower

    • Sean

      Wow! I am honored. Thanks for creating this show-stopper and for stopping in
      at Spec D. Sean

  • Mrice

    Wow. Jeremiah Tower showing up – how great is that. Anyone scratching their head over your Eve Harrington references should be banned from your site. The sea urchin souffle looks amazing. I have only tried making sea urchin pasta from Esca (also amazing) but I found it hard to extricate the roe from the icky black. Considering I’m stuck with the Maine versions (Cor J in HB), about how many sea urchins did you use for this recipe?

    • Sean

      I’m with you re: Eve Harrington! The recipe called for 4 large sea uchins,
      but these were small. So I did buy six; each urchin gave 3-4 lobes that were
      only 1 or 2 teaspoons worth each. Then of course I ate some raw (quality
      control!) … so net/net I ended up using uni from four urchins. Here’s
      where the difference came. B/c the shells were small I did have extra batter
      so used additional ramekins. I think if the urchin shells had been
      bigger/deeper it all might have fit. Hope this helps. Would love to know how
      it works out for you. Sean

  • RamblingTart

    Wow! I’ve never tried sea urchin in my life, let alone cooked with it. :-) Well done! It sounds delicious. :-)

    I’m finally back from Australia and am so glad I can check out your blog. You do some wonderfully adventurous things with food! :-)

    • Sean

      Thanks. A note of caution — sea urchin is a acquired taste. Strong stuff.
      First time around it can provoke that “you’ve got to be kidding, right?”
      response. But soon you’ll find it one of the most unique delicacies in the
      world. You can ease in gently trying in sushi, called Uni in Japanese.

  • Star Witch

    Dear Sean, Dear Jeremiah,

    I have been making these soufflés since you – Jeremiah! – gave me an autographed cookbook at the First Annual James Beard Awards, after a cooking demo at Macy’s! These soufflés are always perfect, and I have never ever thought of questioning the butter, the flour, despite other people’s comments.
    Sean, thanks for explaining what to do if there are no large urchins! A soufflé bowl just doesn’t quite cut it! And Jeremiah, thanks to you, I have a reputation over here, in Paris, for being a good cook!
    Thank you both!

    • Sean

      Hello Star Witch — how fabulous to hear from a long time sea urchin souffle master. And a highly-regarded reputation in Parisian culinary circles, well that’s quite something too! — Sen

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