"Ruge el viento. El mar golpea los acantilados. Dos metros de roca, ésa es la franja de agua y oxígeno en la que crece el percebe."
- David Berian
Sometimes, with or without muse, I see something that inspires me and I quickly get on my computer and write down a new story for you. This happened to me with the video that comes along this article. It was my inspiration to write about the experience behind a bite of "percebe".
"Percebes" are classified as crustacean very well appreciated in Spain, and... if you have been to Madrid at the "Mercado de San Miguel", you certainly have tried them or have passed them by and did not dare to try them because of their unappetizing look. And if you have visited the Northern Spain, you have seen them for sure, because they are typical of the north and northwestern coasts.
They spend their lives together, attached in bunches to the most hardly hit rocks by open sea waves. Depending on their size is their flavor and price. Wherever the sea waves hits with more power, "percebes" are shorter and thicker, their meat has more consistency, more flavor and obviously more expensive. I have paid for half a pound (enough appetizers for two to three persons) between $40 and $60, just to give you an idea.
These black-brown-greyish-greenish little gems, can be captured all year round in an artisanal and very dangerous manner, as seen in the documentary. They feed on "fitoplancton" or seawater and their body has two sections: the nail and the peduncle or footstalk. This is the portion that we eat. Their size determines their price as well as the difficulty and riskiness on catching them as you will see on the video. They are sold alive and have about two-three inches long.
You can cook percebes washing them with cold water then adding them into boiling sea water or salty water and letting them cook for approximate 2 minutes. Sometimes people add bay leaves, beer, Jerez (Sherry vinegar) or white wine to the water, but if you add anything, make sure is just a pinch because you do not want to miss the experience of having a real ocean flavor in your mouth. They are extremely tender, salty and also a little bit sweet. They have a great content of protein, vitamin B, potassium, minerals and compare to other shellfish, they are low in fat and cholesterol.
They can be found in Canada, France and Morocco but they're less appreciated in those areas. In English you might get confused, "barnacles" is the classification name for this animal of which there are almost a thousand species. But the edible "percebes" of which I am writing about are known in English as "goose barnacles".
If you have the opportunity to have them in front you and you are not allergic to crustaceans, give yourself a treat experiencing their taste; if you like them, you will not be able to stop eating them... A few "percebes", a glass of Albariño or Cava and a toast to the real sea flavor!
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