We had a special arrival this week from Spain here at the L2o kitchen, Percebes. Known as the Goose Barnacle in English, or Pouce Pied in French, these hardy, thumb shaped barnacles are tough to get a hold of, as they fetch sky high prices in Europe. We've been trying to acquire some for 2 years now. The price reflects both the demand, as well as the difficulty in acquiring them.
The goose barnacle depends on moving water for feeding, and hence is only found amidst the rocks and floatsam of the coastal surf. This makes for a dangerous profession for the Percebeiros, ocean foragers that skirt the slippery, wave torn cliffs of the northern Spanish coast to hand pick the percebes from the rocks.
The cooking process is quite simple. As with most great seafood, the percebe needs little help from the cook. They are fantastic on their own. After a quick rinse to remove any sediment, the percebe is blanched for about 40 seconds in boiling, salted water (a Spanish traditionalist would tell you to boil them for the time it takes to say the Lord's Prayer). At this point, if we were to follow tradition to the letter,the blanched percebe would then be removed from the water, then sat in a warm, moist towel and served. The diner would then use their teeth to remove the outer "sleeve" or leathery membrane surrounding the innner flesh, spitting out the sleeve, and then biting off and enjoying the pinkish purple inner flesh protruding from the clawlike "foot" of the barnacle. The foot is actually where the filter feeder mouth of the barnacle is located. We do a bit of the refining of the percebe for the guest in advance, by removing the sleeve for them.
In an effort to showcase the unique flavor of the percebe, we garnish the percebe simply. We make a light sauce consisting of grapefruit juice, marine cider vinegar and salt to complement the percebe, as well as a couple of drops of tarragon oil for the dish.