Periwinkles are a family of marine snails. They are popularly consumed in Europe and the Far East. They were introduced to North America in the 1850’s and now grow wild from Nova Scotia to Maryland. They have not caught on as regular menu items in the U.S.
Recently I happened upon a bag of frozen cooked periwinkle meat in market near San Francisco. Traditionally, periwinkle eaters have extracted the cooked meat from the shells with a special two-tined fork or, if forced to improvise, a toothpick. My set of plastic dinnerware does not include a two-tined fork, so having the meat extracted is a convenience.
The frozen peris (or do friends call then winkles?) are imported from China by Pacific American Fish Company. The company’s web site has a reassuring story of the product being wild-caught and sustainably harvested. The package I bought was an excellent product.
There are not as many periwinkle recipes on the web as there are for, say, chicken. The general advice is to treat it like other shellfish, such as clams or mussels. I opted for a wine, onions, butter, and herb broth, using a fine $3 bottle of sauvignon blanc.
The periwinkles are cooked, so its only necessary to heat them up in the broth. They should be defrosted first to prevent overcooking. The meat proved quite tender.
Periwinkles are delicious, but they are more delicate than clams or mussels. The wine broth is a bit too much, so I tended to eat the meat with bread out of the broth. Periwinkle would be excellent in a salad or perhaps toasted on skewers.