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abalone

Pronunciation: [a-buh-LOH-nee]

A gastropod mollusk (see both listings) found along the coastlines of California, Mexico and Japan. The edible portion is the adductor muscle, a broad foot by which the abalone clings to rocks. As with any muscle, the meat is tough and must be pounded to tenderize it before cooking. Abalone, used widely in Chinese and Japanese cooking, can be purchased fresh, canned, dried or salted. Fresh abalone should smell sweet, not fishy. It should also be alive—the exposed muscle should move when touched. Choose those that are relatively small and refrigerate as soon as possible. Cook abalone within a day of purchase. Fresh abalone is best sautéed and should be cooked very briefly (20 to 30 seconds per side) or the meat will quickly toughen. Abalone is known as ormer in the English Channel, awabi in Japan, muttonfish in Australia and paua in New Zealand. Its iridescent shell is a source of mother-of-pearl. See also shellfish.