Oh my god, these are really, really good. I knew they would be since I’d had them at Toro Boston as part of a tasting menu and swooned over them then, but I didn’t quite believe that the recipe I found online would be a perfect replica. I was wrong.
What is this culinary wonder, you ask? An uni bocadillo (translated as sandwich or snack). That’s right, a sandwich made with uni– sea urchin roe (okay, it’s really the entire gonads of the urchin, but “roe” sounds more appetizing so let’s go with that). When I first tasted it at Toro I was blown away by the delicate sweetness and seafood flavor of the roe– it was rich and creamy and luxurious, and I couldn’t get enough of it! The waiter described it as “like a grilled cheese, only with uni,” and it was a fair assessment– the creamy uni worked perfectly with the buttery toasted bread, and it really did remind me of a very upscale grilled cheese sandwich.
When I finally found the recipe I was intrigued to note that there were several ingredients that I hadn’t consciously noticed in the original– miso, for example, and pickled mustard seeds, which looked interesting. The difficult part, though, would be sourcing some uni. My local fish specialist came up short– he said that uni season was October through March, so I was out of luck. But I managed to find some (at an outrageous price) at a well-appointed Korean market in their sushi-grade section, so I snapped it up and we were off!
Uni Bocadillos (by Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette of Toro)
1 piece of ciabatta, 8 inches long
4 oz butter at room temperature
2 oz white miso
2 tbsp pickled mustard seeds
1 scallion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
20 tongues of uni (about 3 oz., according to my packaging)
1. Using a hand mixer, whip together butter and miso until creamy.
2. Mix in sliced scallions and garlic.
3. Slice ciabatta loaf in half lengthwise and pull out some of the bready center. Not all of it, just enough to make a shallow pocket in the bread– I promise, this is useful because otherwise the fillings squeeze out of the sandwich later.
4. Spread the miso butter generously on both sides of the hollowed-out bread. (I know the photo only shows butter on one side, but trust me, do both)
5. Spread mustard seeds over one side, and cover with a layer of uni. Squeeze lemon juice over the uni and top with the other piece of bread.
6. Slather more butter over both sides of the outside of the sandwich (works best if you do one side, then put that face-down into the pan and butter the top side afterwards).
7. Fry on a griddle or nonstick pan over low heat (or cook in a panini press), pressing down firmly to get nice browning. Flip to cook the other side. Caution: the miso makes this brown more quickly than you’d expect, which is why we’re going with low heat here. You want your bread to get warm and toasty and your fillings to get melty, and if you use higher heat the outside will burn before you get to that point.
8. Slice into 2″ strips with a sharp knife to serve.
- The original recipe called for 3 tbsp. of pickled mustard seeds, but I found that even with slightly less than that, they overpowered the uni flavor. I reduced it to 2 tbsp. in this recipe.
- You will not use all of the butter– you probably only need a little more than half. It’s tougher to make smaller quantities, though, so I didn’t try to reduce the recipe.
- Do NOT throw away any leftover miso butter– it’s delicious and will jazz up any dish you might use it on. So far I’ve had it melted over grilled salmon, on roasted sweet potatoes, and in a regular ham sandwich. I’m totally planning on making extra to just to have around this summer– I’ll bet it would be fantastic over any seafood or pasta dish as well!
- Go for ciabatta that’s on the thin side– otherwise the bread won’t be balanced by the filling, and with the fast browning on the outside you might not warm your filling all the way through if your bread is too thick, even with the low heat level.
- I admit it, this can be a very expensive sandwich depending on how pricey your uni is. But it’s rich, so a small piece goes a long way. This recipe serves 4 in appetizer portions, but I’d say that it could serve 2 with a salad and a glass of wine for a light meal.