KITCHEN SHRINK: Crazy for Caviar? This budget-buster doesn’t need to break your bank!

By Catharine Kaufman

Caviar, the ultimate sexy celebratory food, is a divine way to ring in the New Year. What is caviar and why is it so expensive? Here’s a primer on this delicacy with some tips for enjoying it on a shoestring, and a quiz at the end for your amusement.

Catherine L. Kaufman

The “true” caviar is the salted, non-fertilized sturgeon eggs or roe from Iranian and Russian producers in the Caspian Sea. The caviar of caviars comes from three species of sturgeon – Osetra, Sevruga and Beluga, the latter producing the most exquisite roe from fish that take over 20 years to mature before producing the precious eggs, prized for their soft texture and large-pearl size, ranging in color from jet black to pale grey.

That accounts for the sticker shock of Beluga – a jaw-dropping $860 for an 8-ounce tin, or shopping around you can find the edible black gems at bargain basement prices, around $79 for two ounces at Costco. (Even more rare and costly is Sterlet, that makes Beluga look like canned cat food).

The best way to stretch your caviar dollar is to serve it as a garnish – a drop here, a sprinkle there on top of goat cheese spread on toast points or thinly sliced baguette rounds. Add some color and saltiness to devilled eggs. Scoop out baby redskin potatoes and fill them with sour cream and a dollop of caviar. Whip up a seafood pizza with toppings of shrimp, calamari, bay scallops and a circle of caviar in the center, or top a chilled soup with a heart-shaped dollop. Spoon on grilled scallops or serve with blinis or pancakes and crème fraiche.

Also, if you’re not a caviar snob, there are several varieties other than Beluga that add saltiness, color and flavor without having to refinance your house. American Lake Sturgeon caviar is black like Beluga with a buttery taste. Paddlefish caviar has translucent grey colored beads also with a buttery flavor, while Trout Caviar with large golden colored pearls has a subtle flavor.

Try Lumpfish Caviar from Nordic seas, delicate sized beads, crunchy with a strong briney bite, or bright orange or reddish tinged Salmon Caviar, with large pearl-sized beads packing an intense flavor. The Salmon Caviar is also considered kosher, unlike the Sturgeon Caviar since these fish don’t have scales, making this roe taboo under kashrut laws.

Caviar must be cared for with TLC — stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator, but never frozen. Unopened, it can keep for 4 to 6 weeks, but once started caviar should be consumed within 3 days.
Before serving, let the caviar sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. Many caviar connoisseurs enjoy their passion simply – eating caviar solo, kept chilled over shaved ice. Finely chopped scallions or red onions and hard-boiled eggs are also traditional accompaniments.

Be sure to use a non-metallic serving spoon, like one made of mother-of-pearl, as metal might taint the delicate caviar essence and culinary experience. Well-chilled mineral water, dry champagne or unflavored vodka make the caviar go down nice and easy.

Caviar Quiz
1.This is the rarest species of the CaspianSea Sturgeon that takes 20 years to mature before producing eggs:
a) Sevruga
b) Oserta
c) Beluga
d) bony fish

2. Thanks to over fishing of sturgeon and other industrial hazards in the Caspian Sea, it is expected that the next generation of black caviar will come from the world’s second largest source from:
a) Norway
b) Sweden
c) Canada
d) California

3. This many calories are in one ounce of caviar:
a) 74
b) 174
c) 274
d) 374

4. Caviar contains 47 vitamins and minerals, with the highest USDA daily requirement of:
a) Potassium
b) Iron
c) Vitamin D
d) Calcium

5. Some sturgeon species can live up to:
a) 30 years
b) 50 years
c) 70 years
d) a century

Answers: 1c), 2d), 3a), 4b), 5d).

Linguini with Vodka and Caviar
Here’s an easy, elegant caviar entrée to serve at a New Year’s Eve dinner party or intimate soiree for two.

  • 1/2 pound of linguini (cooked, al dente)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup chives
  • 2 ounces red salmon caviar or your choice
  • Sea salt and cayenne pepper
  • .

In a large skillet, melt butter and olive oil and sauté shallots and garlic until tender. Add vodka and cream and cook rapidly until it thickens to a saucy consistency. Toss with cooked pasta. Season to taste. Top with caviar and chives. Enjoy immediately.

For additional holiday recipes email or check out

Related posts:

  1. Kitchen Shrink: A trio of December celebrations tempt clever cooks
  2. Kitchen Shrink: Remember all the funky home-grown food trends of 2010?
  3. Kitchen Shrink demystifies the trendy tapas … just in time for the holidays
  4. KITCHEN SHRINK: If your dinner guests come with labels, here’s how to read ‘em
  5. KITCHEN SHRINK: It’s time to get back to our roots — Part 1

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Posted by Susan DeMaggio on Dec 21, 2010. Filed under Columns, Food, Kitchen Shrink. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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