Slow cooking is the way to go with fresh whelk, says Chef Taibe. Simmering them helps to break down the protein and create a tender, meaty bite. When introducing an unexpected ingredient such as whelk to your guests, he adds, pair it with a delicious, more accessible food like these roasted potatoes. If whelk isn’t available in your area, you can substitute quahogs.
Whelk and Yukon Gold Potatoes with Celery Salsa Verde and Ramp Mayonnaise
For the whelk and potatoes
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 large celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped, about 5 oz.
- 1 cup (about 1 oz.) flat-leaf parsley with stems
- 1 head garlic, halved lengthwise, plus 9 cloves, peeled
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 lbs. fresh whelks in shells, cleaned, or 1-1/2 lb. frozen pre-cooked whelk meat
- 3 lb. baby Yukon gold potatoes
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 small leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise and washed
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil; more for serving
- 6 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 2 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
For the celery salsa verde
- 1 shallot, finely chopped, about 1-1/2 oz.
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped mixed herbs, such as parsley, dill, chives, tarragon, and lovage
- 3 stalks celery, from the heart, with leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbs. white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup good quality olive oil mayonnaise, such as Spectrum Organic
- 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- Baby arugula
Make the whelk and potatoes
- If using fresh whelks, soak them in cold salted water for about 3 hours, changing the water twice before poaching and cleaning. If the whelks are pre-cooked and in the shell, clean as directed below, and then poach. If whelks are pre-cooked and frozen, out of the shell, be sure the hard intestinal tract is removed before proceeding.
Clean the whelks (for pre-cooked or fresh whelks in the shell)
- Insert the tines of a small fork into the visible whelk meat and begin to rotate the shell backwards while gently pulling the meat forward. Don’t pull too hard or the whelk meat will tear. Cut off the foot (the penny size thin hard part that encloses the whelk into its shell). Remove the hood (the loose part that covers most of the whelk’s body…it actually looks like a hood) by gently pulling it backwards and tearing off. Feel for the intestinal tract at the thinner end of the whelk. It will be a hard, semi circular piece just under the skin. Gently make a small vertical slit along the ridge of the intestine with a paring knife and remove.
- In a 6- to 8-quart stockpot, combine the onion, celery, carrot, parsley, 6 cloves of garlic, and 1 Tbs. salt with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse. Add the whelk and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the mixture with the cover slightly cracked for about 1 hour. Remove the whelk from the heat and let it remain in the braising liquid until it becomes cool enough to handle. Cut the whelk into small pieces, about 3/4-inch long.
- Meanwhile, in an 8- to 10-stockpot, combine the potatoes, head of garlic halves, thyme, bay leaves, and the leek. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add 1 Tbs. salt to the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and discard the aromatics.
- In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil until shimmering. Add the scallions, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until they begin to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
- In the same skillet, melt the butter and the remaining 2 Tbs. oil over medium heat. Thinly sliced the remaining 3 cloves of garlic and add it to the skillet along with the shallots. Season generously with salt and pepper, and cook until they begin to soften, about 1 minute. Add the whelk, season with to taste with more salt and pepper and cook until tender, 5 minutes more.
Make the celery salsa verde
- In a medium bowl, combine the shallot, lemon juice and 1 tsp. of salt and let sit to meld the flavors, about 30 minutes. Add the herbs, celery, celery leaves, vinegar, sugar, and olive oil. Whisk to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Combine the potatoes with the celery salsa verde and transfer to a serving platter. Whisk the mayonnaise with 1 Tbs. of lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle over the potatoes. Scatter the scallions and the whelk evenly over the potatoes. Season with the remaining 2 Tbs. lemon juice, an additional drizzle of oil, if desired, and garnish with arugula. Serve.