This gastronomic experiment was actually yesterday but the post would’ve been too long so here it is on what would otherwise be a slow news day.
I always like looking at the seafood counters in Spanish (super)markets. The most interesting thing we’ve seen so far have been percebes [goose-necked barnacles], though I didn’t recognise them at the time. Neither did I know either how to cook them or, for that matter, how to eat them. That was in Valencia’s jaw-dropping covered market. I have since consulted YouTube for instructions.
On this trip I’ve been seeing some grey crustaceans called galeras in the local vernacular. They look a bit like a push-me-pull-you langoustine, or something along those lines. Here’s an individual that I think may help you understand my description. It’s about 10cms/4ins long, The front of this creature is actually the left hand end but they have two dark “eye spots” on the tail, presumably to scare off would be attackers, at the right hand end. If you look closely at the left hand end, you’ll make out the real eyes and the predatory limbs that give this creature its English vernacular name, Mantis Shrimp.
I didn’t actually have any recipes or tackling instructions for these critters either but they look sufficiently similar to prawns/langoustine for me to bite the bullet and have a go. I bought a bag full which, with the help of the nice lady on the seafood counter at Consum, turned out to be about 600g of the beasts. [They were 8€ per kg and the tail “eye-spots” show up better in this picture. Oh, they’re the other way around. 😀 ]
I’d no idea of any accepted way of cooking them but this was lunch and the sun was out bathing our balcony in balmy warmth so I decided to go for an old standard where prawns might be concerned: a la plancha with garlic and parsley. My only concern was that the little beasties would curl up when thrown onto the heat making it difficult to keep enough of them in contact with heat source. It didn’t happen, though, to my surprise; they remained straight and flat so I could just flip them over a few times until I judged them to be cooked (another guessing game).
Now to let them cool a little before we tried to tackle them.
Lesson #1: they bite back. The shells are very spikey and you can get sore fingers.
Lesson #2: unlike langoustines, you can’t crack the underside of the tail by giving a gentle squeeze, no cracking occurs but you will get a sore thumb (see lesson #1).
Lesson 3: resort to mechanical assistance. We ended up using our kitchen scissors to split the underside of the tail, open them up and scrape out the meat, which was still generally difficult to extract.
Lesson #4: they are delicious. You can’t describe flavour so I won’t try too hard but they have a sweet intensity of flavour, sufficiently different to other crustaceans to make the lessons worthwhile. I think they were perhaps a little underdone, which is why the meat remained a bit difficult to extract.
Next time [Lesson #5 courtesy of YouTube], I’d boil them which provides an even, all round heat and would cook them better, hopefully releasing the meat more readily. Our use of scissors was an inspired correct approach: having topped and tailed the beasts, scissors are generally used to cut along either side of the tail before pealing off both upper and lower shell sections. [Ignoring the southeast Asian street food approach which simply chucks the chopped up entirety at you, shell and all.]
Oh, they are also called Pissing Shrimp, apparently, due to their habit of squirting a jet of water at you. Mind you, destined for the pan, who could blame them?