From unpleasant looking things, beauty often emerges… Caviar is the eggs of the sturgeon, a fish only surpassed in looks by the similarly ugly catfish. The eggs have been brined or salted and allowed to mature. Its incessant farming caused Russia to put a nine-year self-imposed ban on wild sturgeon caviar trade. The rarest and most expensive in fact comes from the big beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea.
|The finest beluga can set you back a cool $ 16,000 for just a kilogram…and you thought drugs were expensive…|
It is said that the first people tasting caviar on the shores of the Caspian were the Azeri and Persians living at the Kura River on the area of the former Persian Empire. They called it khaviar from the Persian dialect (khya meaning egg). The Persians believed that caviar was a medicine, which can cure many diseases, including boosting performance in the art of lovemaking, especially if someone like Monica Belluci is wearing it.
Aristotle, the Greek scholar in the 4th century B.C., described caviar as a delicacy made from the roe (eggs) of the sturgeon fish. In the times of the Roman Empire, caviar was regarded as such a delicacy that it was presented among garlands of flowers, and trumpets heralded its arrival as it was presented to the patricians diners. Yet, surprisingly enough, in America during the early nineteenth century, caviar was routinely served during free lunches in saloons. The salty flavor encouraged thirst and enhanced beer sales.
In case you did not know, the three best-known varieties are:
BELUGA - this is the most expensive type and is produced by the largest species of sturgeon (about 800kg sturgeon). The eggs are dark grey, firm, heavy and well separated. These eggs are the biggest, but most fragile. When eggs burst, the caviar becomes very oily.
OSETRA - the eggs are smaller and more evenly sized. They are golden yellow to brown coloured and quite oily. Many prefer this variety. Not as dear as the Beluga it can still claim a whopping $3500 per kilo.
Smaller sturgeons produce SEVRUGA. The eggs are very small light to dark grey clouded. This caviar is the least expensive…and in many instances just as delectable…most people would hardly tell the difference especially if served as part of a dish or recipe.
Caviar is perishable and must be stored between -2 to +4 degrees (28-39F). Allow 50g per person (3 tbsp). To serve caviar, remove from fridge 1 hour before serving and serve cold, but not frozen, on crushed ice. Blinis, sour cream, or lightly buttered toast make excellent companions. Never use lemon with Caviar as it affects the taste!
When shopping for Caviar it is essential, you verify the origin, type, and freshness. These are all indicators of quality and affect the price tremendously. Traditionalists believe that caviar should not be masked with accompanying flavours, instead it should be served plain and eaten straight with a pearl spoon! However, there are times when caviar can be used to lend its unique texture, creamy experience, and hints of the sea, kind of like sea salt that bursts with creamy oil!
In general, mild flavours are best to accompany caviar in order not to loose much on its distinctive flavour. Paired with soft scrambled eggs or on top of a chilled fine slice of Bonnotte potato with a drop of crème fraiche and a sprinkle of chives…. One of the most eclectic way to have caviar is atop a light and tangy Champagne Granita or Sorbet, the whole experience is just out of this world! From the cool of the ice granules in the granita, to its tang against the delicate pieces of caviar, that will pop oozing out their oils lending a creaminess to an otherwise hard texture of ice. Then the crunch from the sorbet with each bite revealing more of the champagne flavours, you just will not want the experience to end! Here is how I make it:
Beluga Caviar Atop Champagne Granita
Beluga or Osetra Caviar
1 bottle Champagne or Sparkling wine
4 tbsp Champagne vinegar or white wine Vinegar
8 tbsp water
In a large bowl, mix together the Champagne, vinegar and water. Freeze for 1 hour, once it is frozen, scrape the ice with a fork into a chilled bowl. Place back in the freezer until ready to serve. When ready to serve, place 1 tbsp of Granita atop a clean and chilled oyster shell top with Caviar and sprinkle with finely chopped chives and parsley, sprinkle with a tiny sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper for garnish. Another way of course is to take Monica’s example and have your partner wear the whole concoction…
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