The luxury item that has historically been associated with the lifestyles of the rich and famous is now trending among everyday culinary enthusiasts looking to spice up some of their favorite recipes.
Caviar has a reputation that often precedes its experience. Perceptions that it is only for the rich, too expensive, or is only consumed by certain ethnic groups are changing as its popularity these days is on the rise.
Earlier this year, we did a little investigating along with a lot of tasting to learn why this “crown jewel of seafood” is trending among chefs and home cooks. Demand is up and thanks to an increase in options for consumers, they can enjoy a taste of luxury for as little as under $40.
Similar to wine, enjoying caviar comes with understanding its origins and the language that creates the culture and decorum during the experience. To learn more, we turned to the experts at Whole Foods Market as well as the California-based company Tsar Nicoulai for the basics.
If you’re still planning your holiday menus, here are a few fun facts and suggestions to help you include caviar as part of your upcoming culinary offerings.
- Caviar is considered a delicacy and refers only to the roe (mass of eggs in female fish) of wild sturgeon. If the roe is not from sturgeon, it is not called caviar. Other options for consumers include roe from salmon, trout, steelhead, lumpfish, whitefish and other species of sturgeon and are less expensive.
- Beluga caviar is considered to be the best in the world and because of this, excessive demands have threatened the fish with extinction. As of 2005, it is illegal to import Beluga caviar into the U.S. Three other sturgeon species considered just as valuable are Osetra, Sevruga, and Sterlet. Today, most caviars and roes come from farmed sturgeon that are produced through sustainable practices.
- Never use metal when enjoying caviar. “Bumps” or a serving of caviar are enjoyed on a mother of pearl spoon so that the taste is not tainted.
- If you are tasting caviar for the first time, it is suggested that you taste it on a blini (mini Russian pancake) with a little crème fraîche. It pairs nicely with Champagne for a complete experience.
- After your purchase, caviar can stay unopened in the refrigerator until the expiration date on the package. Once opened, you should consume it within two to three days.
- Tasting notes used to describe caviar include buttery, smoky, fishy, creamy, briny and nutty.
- Similar to wine, caviar can be labeled as Classic, Reserve or Estate. In addition, you may also see Cru, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru.
- Pairings with caviar include Champagne, wine and beer. On the back of each Tsar Nicoulai package, you’ll find a suggested wine or beer pairing which takes away the guessing.
- Finally, caviar is very versatile and can be enjoyed on top of scrambled eggs in the morning, with sushi for lunch or on a blini with a glass of wine while you prepare dinner. From simple to complex, just Google recipes online and you’re bound to find one you like or have fun creating your own which is easier than you think.
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If you are looking to change things up a little this holiday season, keep in mind that caviar is more accessible and affordable than ever before. Available at specialty stores and online, you can also check your local Whole Foods Market. Brands such as Tsar Nicoulai offer a complete caviar and roe experience that doesn’t call for breaking the bank.
Here is one recipe courtesy of Whole Foods to get you started.
PARSLEY TOAST WITH CAVIAR
4 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
5 teaspoons black caviar
2 1/2 teaspoons sour cream
fresh chives, chopped for garnish (optional)
- Brush bread lightly with melted butter and toast until golden brown. Let cool and cut each toast slice into 3 serving-size rectangles to make 12 total.
- Place parsley on a flat plate. Use remaining melted butter to brush toast edges, then roll in parsley to lightly cover all edges.
- Top each rectangle with a dollop of caviar or roe, a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives. Serve immediately.