At the Foodways Texas Gulf symposium P.J. Stoops spoke at a bycatch panel. He explained that somebody is interested in eating nearly everything caught in a fishing boat. For lunch, Chris Shepherd demonstrated the point by serving the sea snails variously known as “oyster drills, biganos,” or “whelks.” Shepherd boiled these in crawfish boil for an hour and a half. They were nice and tender with a flavor not all that different from escargot. I would have liked them in garlic butter sauce–but I applaud Shepherd for allowing us to taste them unadorned first. To eat them, you pull the sea snail out of the shell with a nail and then peel off the tough foot.
Oystermen find these in their dredges quite often. They are known as “oyster drills” because they bore into the shells of oysters and suck out the oyster meat. The oystermen used to throw them in the parking lot to kill them–they were delighted to find out that chefs were willing to pay for them. I have had these in France on fruit de mers platters and in the Virgin Islands where they are called whelks. In the Virgin Islands they quick cook them in a pressure cooker, then slice them thin and sautee them in a little garlic butter–the same way they serve conch.
The panel titled: “The Strangest Thing in the Nets: Bycatch, ‘Trashfish,’ and Gulf Sustainability,” was moderated by food writer Jenny Wang with panelists Bryan Caswell of Reef, Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due Supper Club, and P. J. Stoops of Louisiana Foods weighing in on the impact of current fishing practices in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Many don’t realize that the Gulf of Mexico is the second most productive fishery in the world,” said P. J. Stoops “However, unless we increase awareness and change our harvesting methods, access to seafood options we enjoy today will be drastically reduced in as few as 5 to 10 years.”