If you're a picky eater like I am, you may run into certain social situations where you find yourself faced with trying different foods that perhaps you've never encountered before.
I am a classically picky eater. I struggle with texture. Seafood, in particular with its briny flavors and different textures, gives me a hard time. The extent of my seafood eating ends at clam cakes where the seafood hides inside of the fried dough and fried calamari where again the seafood masks itself inside of breading and is dipped in spicy mayonnaise. I can handle that, but not much else when it comes to eating pure seafood.
As a working professional who also happens to be a picky eater, I run into situations where I must politely and professionally try new foods without showing my real impression of new things.
Lunch meetings, work dinners, holiday parties, these are all occasions that I run into issues with being a picky eater. A recent work event tested my resolve when I encountered a new and genuinely unique food, caviar.
As an urban transplant from the Midwest, I had never heard of let alone seen caviar before. I heard whispers of astonishment and excitement from my peers who were indulging in this rare delicacy. I was so unsure of what this delicacy was, let alone how it would taste or feel in my mouth. I successfully avoided the embarrassment of seeming picky in front of my bosses, but I also avoided trying this new and unique food item.
I left that party disappointed in myself for being so picky about new foods. Later that night, as I tried to fall asleep, I resolved right then and there to be more open to new foods. I started that journey by finding out precisely what caviar is and how it might taste. I told myself that I had to try this new food that all of my coworkers were so excited to enjoy.
It all started when I asked myself, what is caviar anyway?
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What is Caviar?
Caviar is a food delicacy. Caviar is a delicacy because of how rare, and expensive caviar can be. After looking into caviar, a bit more, I realized why my coworkers were so surprised to see that our bosses had splurged to have caviar at our dinner. Maybe they do like that work we do after all.
Of course, the internet can tell us everything, so I kept reading about caviar.
Caviar is the roe or eggs from the female fish. You can find caviar as an appetizer at dinner parties, as a palate cleanser between courses, or served as a garnish on many dishes.
By itself, or as a garnish, caviar's unique flavor and exciting texture, please the pallet.
What Type of Fish is Caviar?
My curiosity grew as I continued to research caviar. I was determined to try this food, but I wanted to know more. So, I continued to investigate. Caviar is the unfertilized eggs from a family of fish called sturgeon. Another common term for fish eggs is "roe." While all female fish lay eggs, not all fish eggs are caviar. The roe must come from sturgeon to be caviar.
Sturgeon is a saltwater fish found in many waters around the world and traditionally fished in the Black and Caspian seas. Like salmon, sturgeon leave the salt waters and travel up freshwater tributaries to breed. I had heard of salmon before, but this was my first time learning of sturgeon. I continued my research. The next time I encountered caviar at a dinner party, I wanted to impress my coworkers and my bosses with my knowledge of this apparent delicacy.
Where does Caviar Come From?
Traditionally found wild in the Caspian and Black seas, responsibly farmed caviar is more popular today because wild populations of sturgeon have gone down as a result of overfishing. Caviar comes in several varieties named for the array of sturgeon from which the roe comes. Popular types include Beluga, Ossetra, Siberian, Kaluga.
Another variety of caviar comes from American Paddlefish. Closely related to the sturgeon, the paddlefish is native to Montana, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The roe of the American paddlefish is very similar in shape, size, and taste to the more expensive varieties of sturgeon. The paddlefish variety of caviar grew in popularity after governments along the Caspian and Black seas began to regulate the fishing of sturgeon heavily.
I wondered what kind of caviar the bosses served at my dinner party.
How Is Caviar Harvested?
I wanted to know how they harvested the roe. What happens to the fish?
In the wild, fishers catch sturgeon when they are moving from the saltwater seas up tributaries to spawn or breed in the freshwater. When grown on farms, sturgeon farmers monitor the females carefully using ultrasound technology to decide when the female's eggs are ready for harvesting. A female sturgeon can release up to several million eggs at one time, depending on her size.
More recently, caviar providers have begun to look into ways of harvesting the roe without killing the fish. Sturgeon breeders have ways of getting females to release their eggs for spawning, so caviar farmers have begun to use similar methods to encourage the release of eggs without having to hand remove them from the females, which kills the females.
So now the million-dollar question.
What Does Caviar Taste Like?
I wanted to prepare myself for the next time I find myself in front of a display of caviar. I wanted to know what I was in for when it comes time to try caviar for the first time.
Each variety of caviar has different flavor characteristics. For example, black caviar, which comes from beluga, Ossetra, or sevruga sturgeon, has a buttery and nutty flavor. Caviar is known for its tendency to pop in your mouth when eaten. Caviar is considered a culinary delicacy due to its unique texture and taste. This didn't sound too bad. I think I could handle a tiny taste of salty briny beads. I told myself to think of them as beads, rather than eggs. I wondered how about the varieties of caviar
Depending on the variety of sturgeon, the color of caviar ranges from olive green to a dark black. The size of the eggs can also vary.
Caviar is Graded:
Suppliers grade caviar based on the size, flavor, and texture of the roe. There are two grades for caviar.
Grade 1: Grade 1 caviar eggs are larger, firmer, and more intact. Grade 1 tends to be the more expensive variety of caviar.
Grade 2: Grade 1 caviar has smaller, less formed eggs. Grade 2 is slightly less expensive than grade 1 caviar.
So, if real caviar ranges from green to almost black, what is red caviar?
What is Red Caviar?
Red caviar is the roe that comes from salmon. While technically not sturgeon, red caviar has grown on popularity over the years. You can find red caviar garnishing your favorite sushi rolls, added to appetizers, sauces, and spread on crackers.
I had seen red caviar before! My friends in college used to love going out for sushi. I always stuck with the ramen, but I had seen the tiny red bubbles garnishing their sushi rolls. That was red caviar!
What does red caviar taste like?
Salmon roe has a salty and sweet briny flavor that many in the culinary world call "umami." Salmon red caviar is much more widely available when compared to its counterpart, real caviar (sturgeon). Salmon roe caviar is much more affordable than sturgeon caviar coming in at around $3 per ounce.
Why were my coworkers so impressed with my bosses having it at our dinner? It turns out that true caviar is very expensive.
What is the Most Expensive Type of Caviar?
Beluga caviar is the most coveted and expensive type of caviar. Because of its expense and popularity, supplies grade beluga caviar by its color.
000: light or silver-gray
00: medium gray
The flavor of beluga caviar does not change much with its color gradient, but the lighter variety tends to be the most popular and expensive.
As I researched caviar, I kept reading about its signature saltiness. I wanted to know why caviar was so salty. Does it come out salty from the ocean, or is the salt added?
Why is Caviar Salty?
Traditionally, caviar was salted when harvested due to a lack of modern refrigeration and food preservation. The distinctive salty flavor became synonymous with caviar, so it is still salted today. You can purchase varieties that are less salty called malossol caviar.
Ok, so they add salt to the caviar, but is it raw salted fish eggs? Turns out, yes, caviar is typically fresh and raw. Caviar can be pasteurized. Pasteurization increases the shelf life and stability of caviar, but the process degrades the flavor and texture of the roe. Fresh, raw caviar is famous for its better flavor and texture.
So, I now knew that caviar is rare because of overfishing, but are there any other reasons that cause caviar to be so expensive?
Why is Caviar so Expensive?
The female sturgeon doesn't develop her eggs until she is about 20 years old. The rarity of the female sturgeon worsened with overfishing of their wild territories in the Caspian and Black seas. Beluga best caviar in the world, as a result, can cost around $116 per ounce.
Ok, so caviar is expensive because females take years to develop their eggs. I wondered if there was affordable caviar I could try?
What is the best caviar for your money?
Given the fishing restrictions on caviar in the Caspian and Black seas and the cost of farming more expensive varieties, your best bet for flavorful and delicious caviar at a lower price is going to be American Paddlefish caviar.
Paddlefish is a close relative of the sturgeon, and the flavor and texture of paddlefish are very close to that of the beluga sturgeon caviar at a much more appealing price point. Paddlefish caviar sells for about $65.00 per ounce.
How exciting! Paddlefish caviar tastes like the expensive stuff, but it's much more affordable. I could splurge on a tin of caviar for myself! But how would I eat it?
How to Eat Caviar
Many argue that the ideal way to eat caviar is alone or with minimal accompaniments.
For those who are not caviar purists, many choose to eat caviar with crackers, on toast points, or with blinis, which are small crepes. I am NOT a seafood purist. I tend to start with my seafood hidden in some way or another. Knowing that you take caviar in tiny amounts, I thought I could handle caviar in a cracker or piece of toast.
I wondered if there were any caviar recipes out there that I could find. The first thing I came up with on my search was something called caviar pie. I will include the recipe below. Caviar pie is a layered dip with mayonnaise, cream cheese, sour cream, and onion that you delicately layer your caviar on top, and you serve it with crackers or toast points. I could bury my caviar in mayonnaise! I thought I could handle that. So now, where do I find myself some caviar? My search continued.
Where can you Buy caviar?
You can find caviar at gourmet markets, but more commonly, caviar people are buying caviar online through specialty seafood vendors. You can order caviar by the tin. Fresh caviar ships quickly and is typically packed with ice packs. The price of caviar will vary depending on the type and origin of the caviar. That is easy enough. I could order caviar from right here in my apartment. I didn't even have to find a specialty market!
I was going to make myself some caviar pie and maybe even share it with some friends at a get-together. I wanted to impress someone with my new knowledge of this fancy food!
Caviar Pie Romanoff Recipes
Caviar, by itself, requires no preparation. Serving caviar over ice with a small spoon is a statement piece to any dinner party. Ok, so what you're like me and you're not a seafood purist. How can we serve caviar with something to help ease ourselves into trying caviar for the first time? I wanted to be creative but not reveal that I was trying to mask some of the flavor and texture of caviar. After I ordered myself some caviar, I invited a few friends over and decided to make us some caviar pie.
What is Caviar Pie
Caviar Pie Romanoff is versatile, simple, quick, and delicious. Caviar pie not baked like a traditional pie. The caviar remains raw and fresh. The pie in caviar pie refers to the use of a pie pan or, in this case, a springform pan.
How to Eat Caviar Pie
Caviar Pie is a simple, no-bake recipe prepared with a few simple ingredients allowing the caviar to shine through as the centerpiece of the dish. While I wanted my friends to know that we would be eating caviar, I needed something to go with it for this first time trying it.
How to Make Caviar Pie
The recipe for caviar pie seemed easy to make. I could easily find the ingredients, and it looked straight forward enough. While I am not an expert in the kitchen, I can work my way around with some basic tools and ingredients. The hardest part of making caviar pie would be designing the caviar topping. I wanted this pie to look beautiful. After all, we eat by using all of your senses, not just taste, and smell. I wanted this pie to look beautiful.
-10 hard-boiled eggs
-3/4 cup of mayonnaise
- 1 fresh small red onion, diced.
- 12 ounces of cream cheese
- 16 ounces of sour cream
-1/2 cup of fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 (4-ounce) jars of Black caviar
-2 (4-ounce) jars of Red caviar
- Dice the hard-boiled eggs.
- Stir in the mayonnaise and onions
- Season your mixture with salt and pepper.
- Layer the egg mixture into a greased springform pan.
- Beat the cream cheese and sour cream together until smooth.
- Stir chopped parsley into the sour cream/cream cheese mixture.
- Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of your egg mixture and smooth the surface.
- Cover the pan and chill for several hours or overnight.
- Drain each can of caviar. Keep separate.
- Using your caviar, create a design on top of your pie using the colored roe.
- Carefully remove the sides from the springform pan, so you don't damage your caviar pie.
- Serve with toast points or crackers.
Since caviar is supposed to be served in smaller servings, this pie recipe would be enough for 10 people. I only planned on having 4 or 5 friends over, so hopefully, they liked it!
It turns out I am not so picky when it comes to caviar. Not only did I love this recipe for caviar pie, I even scrapped a few of the eggs off of the top to try by themselves! I am a caviar purist, after all!
Whether you're merely curious about caviar or looking to impress your friends, serving caviar will be pleasing and exciting to your guests. Next time, I plan to order and extra tin for myself that I don't have to share!
Like the song "Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams" says, this caviar is as wonderful as it seems.