We have been at the beach this week. It’s been cool in the days and windy at night–and I haven’t caught a single fish. We are usually down here on the Gulf when the water is warmer and can pretty much count on a lunch’s worth of whiting, and with any luck, flounder, black drum, redfish, and the occasional pompano (if our timing is right).
And of course, Fish Head soup. But on this trip: nothing. And how can you make fishhead soup if you haven’t caught a single fish?
That’s when Josh got the idea to make coquina broth.
The night before, he had been looking through a shell book with his grandmother, trying to identify what turned out to be a fighting conch shell. Flipping through the pages, he stumbled upon a full-page spread on coquina, with a sidebar describing coquina broth. It wasn’t much of a recipe–something along the lines of: rinse the coquina, pick out the dead ones, and boil. He couldn’t wait to show it to me.
There’s a back story here–Josh had asked me last year about coquinas, wondering if it were possible to use them in a chowder. I expressed my doubts. Now here was proof-positive that someone, somewhere had deemed these little critters foodworthy.
So, what’s a coquina? They are these tiny bivalves, about an inch long and a quarter inch wide. They have beautiful shells tinged blue, purple, pink, or yellow. They are fast diggers (I leave you to search YouTube for proof). And, apparently, they make a very yummy broth.
- 2 cups of coquinas–cleaned, rinsed, and sorted (the live ones only!)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup chopped tomato
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups water
Heat your olive oil and add your garlic. Saute for a few seconds, then add your tomato and salt. Cook for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes start to break down. Add the coquinas and simmer until the shells start to open. Add water and raise the heat to high. Once your liquid gets close to a boil, lower your heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Strain and serve.
There’s really not much meat inside those shells. We all tried a nibble and none of us thought much of trying to make a meal of those morsels. The broth, however–that’s a different story. There’s a surprising amount of flavor packed in those little fellas.
I can’t imagine any of you running out to make this dish (can you buy coquina?) but hey–next time you’re playing in the sand…who knows? Maybe a cup of coquina broth isn’t your thing, but I could definitely see using this stuff as a very tasty base for a pasta or rice dish. Plus, any meal that the kids can see go from ocean to table is a good one in my book.