Simply salted fish eggs
But you can call it caviar
Red Bliss potatoes topped with caviar
There's nothing like caviar to celebrate ringing in the New Year. This exotic and extravagant culinary treat is simply salted fish eggs, otherwise known as roe. The most famous is black caviar and comes from the sturgeon fish harvested from the Caspian Sea. Beluga, the most desirable (and most expensive), has a delicate and buttery flavor. Osetra, a little less expensive, is nuttier in flavor. And Sevruga, the least expensive of the three, has a briny taste.
There's a reason why this delicacy is so expensive. It's exotic and rare. In recent years, sturgeon has been heavily over-fished and, to protect the population, quotas were imposed on the caviar-producing countries surrounding the Caspian Sea. As a result, the black-market trade flourished. Thus, the United States imposed a ban on the importation of the endangered Beluga caviar. Osetra and Sevruga are still available but at a hefty price. (Buyer beware: The U.S. ban has been in effect since 2006. Given caviar's shelf life, any Beluga being purchased in the U.S. today is either no longer fresh or illegal.)
Caviar connoisseurs are looking for more sustainable alternatives and have found comparable and delicious varieties in the American white sturgeon raised for this culinary purpose in California. Roe from salmon, whitefish, and paddlefish are good options and readily available, at a fraction of the price.
When purchasing caviar, look for the word "malossol" on the label. Meaning "little salt," it indicates that the roe is pure and of high quality. Keep the caviar very cold. To store, place the sealed caviar tins in a ziptop bag filled with ice in your refrigerator. (Do not freeze.)
When serving, maintain the caviar's freshness by placing the tin on a bed of ice. Caviar can be luxuriously enjoyed on its own with some classic accompaniments. Blinis (small buckwheat pancakes), toast, crème fraiche or sour cream, finely diced hard-boiled eggs and finely chopped red onion showcase the delicate flavors of the caviar perfectly. And champagne is a must.
But a little can go a long way, and incorporating a touch of roe into a special dish can be delicious. I top cheesy small red potatoes with a little caviar and my husband finds the delicacy folded into creamy scrambled eggs divine. When cooking with caviar, add the roe to your dish just before serving to maintain the eggs' flavor and texture.
Small new red potatoes are the perfect bite-size morsels for this rich filling with a touch of caviar on top.
- 16 small Red Bliss potatoes
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic
- 8 ounces asiago cheese, grated
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons good-quality caviar
Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender, approximately 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes; rinse and cool to room temperature. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the garlic, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, approximately 8 minutes. Drain the garlic and mash to a paste. In a mixing bowl, combine the mashed garlic, cheese, and mayonnaise and stir until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Using a small melon baller, scoop out a hole in each potato. Stuff the potatoes with the cheese mixture. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and cook in a preheated 375-degree oven until the cheese is melted and bubbling, approximately 10 minutes. Spoon a portion of caviar on top of each potato and serve warm.
It has been our tradition to ring in the New Year at midnight with this dish. The crisp, cleansing bubbles of champagne are the perfect counterpoint to the briny flavor of the caviar.
- 8 large eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons butter, cubed
- 4 to 5 tablespoons good-quality caviar
In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and cream and season with salt and pepper.
Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer over moderate heat in the bottom of a double boiler. Put the top of the double boiler in place and melt the butter. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the egg mixture. Continue to whisk until the eggs are thickened, smooth and creamy, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and gently fold in the caviar.
From the winter 2008 issue of SONOMA