STS Bar & Grill | Coquina Broth

Is it hunting or gathering when the sea delivers your quarry with each lapping wave? Or is ‘serendipitous’ the only useful descriptor of a dinner — or at least a knock-your-socks-off first course — harvested with your butt in the surf and a beer in hand? For that matter, who cares about labels when the fat of the land is pooling about your sandy toes?

Not my kid. He’s plenty satisfied just scooping up the bounty. Of course, coordinating the efforts of his occasionally inattentive recruits takes some bandwidth too.

“Oooo nice coquina haul Dada. You gotta good spot there. Put ‘em in the bucket.”

“I always called ‘em periwinkles,” I said, nabbing another of the glossy little bivalves before it could burrow beneath the wet sand.

“Wrong. They’re coquinas. It’s in my book… That one’s a baby. We throw the babies back so they get to grow-up.”

“Got it. And you’re sure we can eat ‘em?”

“Says so in my book.”

Turns out you can learn a lot from a six-year-old with a book. You may even land a whole new way to enjoy the beach.

Here’s how….

Coquina Broth

What you’ll need:

Black pepper
A sandy beach, somewhere between North Carolina and the Florida panhandle
Plastic bucket
A few hours to while away in the sun

1. Park it in the surf zone within range of the periodic wash of spent waves. Here you’ll find — tumbled ashore amid the wash of life and ocean debris in each micro-flood of surf — a rainbow of pink, yellow, blue, purple, brown, red, green, grey and even striped little pointed-oval mollusks. These are coquinas (not periwinkles) and they’ll have licked their ways out of sight beneath the wet sand within moments of the water’s retreat, so be quick about plucking them up. Scooping into the sand will give you a second chance at the ones who got away, and maybe even the experience of feeling them wriggle against your palms and fingers. Toss your catch in the bucket you’ve partially filled with sand and seawater.

It’s a lazy process. Plan on spending some time at it.

2. When you’ve caught your fill (you’ll need at least a few cups, a big batch of broth requires quarts) rinse the haul well in fresh water, discarding any bycatch and suspect looking critters.

3. Dump your catch into a pot. Cover with an inch of fresh water. Drop in a peeled garlic clove, half an onion, a few pats of butter and salt and black pepper to taste. A splash or two of sherry wouldn’t hurt if you have some on hand.

4. Bring slowly to a low simmer. Cook gently, uncovered, for 20 or 30 minutes, being careful to avoid a hard boil, and making sure the water never drops below the shellfish.

5. Strain through a paper coffee filter, or better yet a cheesecloth lined sieve.

6. Enjoy as a soup, chowder or stew base, or on it’s own as a simple, flavorful broth while planning your next big ‘hunting’ expedition.

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