Sea Scallops with Sea Urchin Emulsion

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield:


    Main-course Servings

Appears in


By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About

Until recently, sea urchin sauce relied on the sea urchin roe itself to form and stabilize the emulsion. At the height of nouvelle cuisine, this natural sea urchin roe emulsion would have been reinforced with reduced cream, butter, or both. Nowadays, propylene glycol alginate, in combination with the roe, can be used to emulsify the sauce. The roe should be treated with the same care as egg yolks, that is, no overheating.

The base for this sauce is a court-bouillon, but there’s no need to adhere to a prescribed recipe. Roasted in-season vegetables, simmered for a few minutes in water, will also do the trick. Fennel stalks (save the bulbs for salads, braising, or roasting) add a note of anise that works well with the marine notes from the sea urchin roe. Roast garlic purée can augment the liaison provided by the propylene glycol alginate, but don’t overdo it. If you’re braising seafood, use the braising liquid here instead of the court-bouillon.

Depending on how the sauce is to be used, many chefs like to serve sea urchin–derived sauces in the scooped out sea urchin shells.


cold court-bouillon 2 cups 500 ml
propylene glycol alginate 2.5 g
cold butter 2 tbsp 30 g
golden roe from 6 sea urchins, worked through a fine-mesh strainer or drum sieve
sea scallops or other shellfish (steamed, sautéed, braised, etc.) 6 servings 6 servings


  1. Whisk together the court-bouillon and propylene glycol alginate. Bring to a simmer while blending with an immersion blender until the powdered alginate is completely mixed in with no specks. If you see specks, strain the mixture through a chinois.
  2. Whisk in the butter. Slowly pour the court-bouillon mixture into the sea urchin roe while blending with the immersion blender.
  3. Serve immediately with the prepared scallops or other shellfish.