Pass the Whelk Lawrence- Waved Whelk From Maine
This morning we got a delivery from Maine that included sea snails called waved whelks. They came in plump and kickin’ along with some live Maine sea urchin and Belon oysters. Scientists brought over the Belons, a European flat oyster, from Brittany in the 50’s to the Boothbay area. They did quite well and are now a part of the Maine oyster population. The Belons we received were hand harvested by a woman who also harvests whelks at the same time (probably because the whelks feed on oysters). A lucky by catch for us!
We’ve sold lots of snails at the market from large abalone and Queen conch, channeled whelk (scungilli) to land snails (escargot) and tiny little periwinkles (bigorneaux). Sea snails can be prepared in many ways and are enjoyed all over the world. Along with fish & chips the English have always loved their winkles and whelks. In Korea spicy golbaengi muchim (whelk salad with noodles) is typical pub grub. At this moment someone is steaming, boiling, pickling, stir-frying, baking, grilling, deep-frying, stewing, making fritters, simmering in sauces or making a salad with whelks. The possibilities of this firm muscle with a sweet flavor go on and on.
The other day a friend from France, Francis Glorie, stopped in the market for lunch. I asked him what these waved whelks were called in France and for a favorite recipe for them. He replied, “Ahh! Bulots, you see them on every fruit de mers plate served cooked (bulots cuits) with mignonette or mayonnaise.” I took Francis’ suggestion. I simply boiled them with a bay leaf, parsley and a little white wine vinegar for 25 minutes, let them sit off the heat for a while and voilà! We couldn’t wait for them to cool. With small cocktail forks we attacked and dipped them in fresh made aioli. What a treat!
I can’t wait to experiment more with these babies. I’m going to try a short boil on them and sauté the meats with peppers and garlic or maybe a sauce over pasta like the Italians do with its larger cousin scungilli. Maybe Louisiana style in a gumbo or a jambalaya like they do with their very similar oyster drills or “biganos” (that’s gotta be a Cajun pronunciation of “bigorneaux”, French for periwinlkles). The meats cut in half and stuffed in mushroom caps and baked with garlic herb butter might be great too. Try some this weekend. I was told September through February is peak season. Here’s a recipe for Bulots Cuits.