Chef Jacob Harth is slowly, quietly, sneaking up on some sea snails, or limpets, attached to a rock. “[You have to] clip them off the rock before they know that you’re there, otherwise they’ll clamp down, and they’ll be really hard to clip off without breaking the shell, which we’re totally trying to avoid,” says the chef.
Limpets are the Oregon coast’s answer to abalone. Chef Harth explains that the invasive species of purple sea urchin have severely diminished the area’s natural kelp supply, which is why there’s no more abalone to be found in the region, making limpets a tasty local substitute. “We’re trying to just shine a spotlight on this alternative species that can be harvested if you’re out here on the coast,” says Harth.
Similarly to its larger cousin, these little limpets get their smooth, mild flavor from the kelp they’re able to eat off of the rocks they attach to. Chef Harth is careful to keep the snails in their shell because breaking a shell will kill them, and keeping them in the shell will keep them fresh and tender enough to serve at his restaurant, Erizo, or in this case for his beachside barbecue.
After collecting all of his limpets, chef Harth cleans them and brushes the foot, or meat side of the snail, with grape seed oil to help with caramelization, and grills the shell over hot charcoals. He tops them with mustard seed oil and flaky sea salt, which complement the briny flavor of the limpets.