Not so long ago, caviar could only mean ultra-expensive beluga caviar served with a mother-of-pearl spoon. Today, roe options from other types of fish can still offer an over-the-top experience at a much more affordable price. With excellent domestic farm-raised caviar readily available, we can enjoy a delicacy that was once reserved only for royalty and the ultra-rich. Caviars and roes of any kind — from Arctic char to whitefish — are still not exactly cheap, but if you’re looking to wow your guests at an important celebration, caviar is worth a bit of a splurge.
Caviar vs Roe: What’s the difference?
The words “caviar” and “roe” are frequently used interchangeably, and it’s true that they both refer to the same thing: fish eggs. But there is a difference. Generally speaking, roe refers to the unprocessed eggs. Caviar, on the other hand, is roe that has been processed by separating the unfertilized eggs, then washing and salting them, before they are packaged in tins or jars for storage. Technically, the word caviar is reserved ONLY for caviar coming from one of the many species of sturgeon, including the famed Ossetra, Sevruga and Beluga.
There are strict rules regarding the labelling of caviar and roe. In the United States and Canada, if a product is labeled only with the word “caviar,” it must come from sturgeon roe. There are as many kinds of roe as there are fish, but only a few dozen are given the caviar treatment. Caviar from other fish, such as salmon, steelhead, trout or whitefish must be additionally labeled with the name of the fish.
Now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s just agree to use the terms more or less interchangeably. If you are interested in learning more about the many varieties of cured, caviar-style fish roes, check out this handy little Concise Caviar Guide.
The best sturgeon caviar is usually served with simple accompaniments that won’t mask its delicate & complex flavors, like toast points, croutons – or nothing at all! Other caviars made from salmon, whitefish or trout etc, are frequently served with a variety of accompaniments, including sliced lemon, chopped hardboiled eggs, sour cream and chives.
Our advice: spend what you can afford and sample a variety of caviars. You’ll soon find which ones you like best. Have fun exploring the many interesting ways of serving – and eating – the wonderful flavors and textures of caviar & roe. Here are three great ideas to get you started!
Quick Buckwheat Blini with Caviar
Russians love their caviar, especially when served on the little buckwheat cakes called “blini” and accompanied with toasts of ice-cold vodka. Traditional yeast-rising blini can take up to 3 hours to make. Our quick version tastes great, but takes only minutes to whip up.
Makes about 32 silver dollar-sized blini
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for cooking
- Caviar of your choice
- Gravlax or smoked salmon
- Sour cream, crème fraîche or thick yogurt
- Fresh dill or fennel fronds
Put both flours, the baking soda, salt and sugar into a bowl and mix with a whisk. Put the egg, milk and vegetable oil into a large bowl and whisk until completely blended. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl containing the liquid ingredients and whisk until smooth. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. The batter will thicken slightly. It should be a little thicker than heavy cream at this point.
Heat a heavy-bottomed 12-inch non-stick pan over medium heat and coat lightly with vegetable oil. When the pan is hot, but not smoking, make a “test blini.” Measure 1 tablespoon of the batter into the pan. When bubbles appear on surface and the edges are set, turn the pancakes with a non-stick spatula. Cook briefly on the other side. The blini should be a rich cocoa brown. If it’s too dark, lower the heat a little.
Repeat with the remaining batter, making as many blini at a time as will fit comfortably in the pan without touching. We found that we could easily fit four silver dollar-sized blini into our roomy 12-inch pan. Continue until all the batter is used up. Remove the cooked blini to a sheet pan as you go. If the oil browns, simply wipe out the pan with a paper towel and add a little fresh oil.
Allow the blini to cool to room temperatur, then top with a slice of gravlax or smoked salmon, a little sour cream, a generous spoonful of caviar and a sprig of dill or fennel.
Twice-cooked Potatoes with Caviar
12 (about 1 pound) petite Yukon Gold or other small potatoes
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 2 Tbsp sour cream or yogurt, plus additional for serving
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chives, plus more for serving
- 1 ounce caviar of your choice
Put the potatoes into a large saucepan, and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook until just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and allow to cool slightly.
When cool enough to handle, cut off the tops and a thin slice from bottoms (so they’ll stand upright) of 10 potatoes. Using a small melon baller, scoop out most of the flesh from these potatoes, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Peel remaining 2 potatoes. Press all flesh through a ricer or sieve into a medium bowl.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the milk and 1 tablespoon of the butter, just until butter melts. Slowly stir the hot milk/butter mixture into the potatoes, a little at a time. Stir in the sour cream and the chives and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a small round tip or, if you don’t have a pastry bag, use a zip lock bag with the tip of one corner snipped off. Pipe the mixture into the hollowed out potatoes, mounding up about 1/2 inch above the top.
Place the stuffed potatoes onto a non-stick baking sheet and slip into the pre-heated oven. Bake until tops begin to brown and are slightly puffed, about 15 minutes. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and brush the tops, then return to the oven to bake until browned, about 15 minutes. Top each potato with a little sour cream, a dollop of caviar and some chives.
Crisp Caviar Spoons
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp milk
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
- 2 Tbsp sour cream or thick yogurt
- 2 ounces caviar of your choice
Chill the milk and butter in the freezer 10 minutes to get them very cold.
Put the flour and salt into a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the chilled butter and pulse just until the butter is cut into pieces about the size of a pea. Add the cheese and blend with a couple of pulses. Turn on the processor and add the milk, continuing to process just until the dough comes together into a ball.
Put the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap. Press the dough into flat disk about 1/4 inch thick. Cover with another piece of plastic wrap and chill at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 250°.
Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick, sprinkling with more flour as needed. Cut spoon shapes with a sharp knife using a pattern, or cut other shapes with a cookie cutter, if you prefer. Slide a thin spatula under the cut shapes and transfer them to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Press the scraps together and re-roll them to cut out more spoons (or shapes).
Bake for about 15 minutes, then remove them from the oven, and press the back of a clean spoon lightly into the bowl of the pastry spoons to make a slight hollow. Return the baking sheets to the oven, and bake until the spoons are very lightly golden and crisp, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Arrange the spoons on a serving tray. Top each with a portion of caviar. Makes about 36 spoons.
Unused spoons may be stored in a tightly sealed container for later use.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
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