Printer Friendly

GIVE YOURSELF A GIFT OF CAVIAR : HERE ARE SOME SERVING TIPS:.

Byline: Elaine Tait Knight-Ridder Tribune News Wire

When we were younger - it was before we knew that we were not wealthy and probably never would be - a food-writer friend and I would meet in Manhattan each November for a busman's holiday.

We would eat our way around the city, mostly at trendy, usually new restaurants.

A notable exception was the venerable Russian Tea Room, where our ritual repast was always beluga caviar and pepper vodka followed by a bowl of borscht.

It was a meal that made us feel like women of the world.

A pity that we didn't realize that the caviar we spent a week's lunch money buying was probably on its last legs.

Twice a year, December to January and July to August, the fresh caviar arrives from the Caspian Sea. Our November caviar would have been from the summer stock, edible certainly but not in its prime - as it would have been had we waited a month or two.

I mention that now to give those of you contemplating a holiday caviar purchase a little nudge.

Do it now. You'll be getting caviar at its best.

I speak, of course, of the imported caviar that comes from Caspian Sea sturgeon. Other caviars exist and can be quite appealing, but it's the Caspian caviar that gourmets prize enough to pay the premium price it invariably commands.

By-the-ounce prices run from $6 to $35, depending on the kind of caviar. Caviar is an extravagance. But if you are willing and able to spend for it, you should know what you're getting. (Unless you're planning to buy pounds of the stuff, don't expect the seller to give you free samples.)

Three names to know are beluga, osetra and sevruga.

Each is from a different Caspian sturgeon. An obvious difference is in the size of the eggs. Beluga are biggest. Sevruga are smallest.

Beluga caviar is the mildest in flavor and the most expensive. Although it ranges in color from light to dark gray, the most expensive beluga is light, pewter gray.

Osetra eggs can look golden yellow to brown. The flavor of osetra is stronger than beluga.

Sevruga eggs are dark gray to black. While traditionally not as expensive as beluga, they are as highly regarded by many gourmets.

When you see ``malossol'' on a caviar label, it means that the caviar is lightly salted. Only the highest quality caviar is treated this way. Lesser caviar invariably gets more salt.

Because of lighter salting, malossol caviar is more fragile and must be handled with extreme care - refrigerated between 28 and 32 degrees F - to keep the quality pristine.

Salting is important to all caviars because it firms the eggs and develops the flavor.

It is salt that transforms sturgeon roe into caviar. Too much salt, however, and the eggs turn tough. Too little and the flavor and firmness won't develop properly. Only experts know how much salt is right for each batch of roe.

Pasteurized caviar is roe that has been mixed with about 6 percent salt before being heat-processed. The extra salt and the processing make the caviar firmer and enable us to keep an unopened container of this caviar almost indefinitely.

The price you pay for that is diminished flavor and moistness and increased saltiness.

How to know if you're buying pasteurized caviar? The sellers are not required by law to label it as such, but a reputable merchant will tell you if it's pasteurized.

If the caviar came as a gift, you can determine it with a simple test. Open a container, and if you hear the sound of the vacuum seal being broken, the caviar is pasteurized.

Don't panic if you open a jar of pasteurized caviar and find white flecks in it. It doesn't mean there's a plot afoot to do you in. (You've been reading too many mystery novels.)

What you're seeing is harmless crystallized protein. Cloudy liquid in the jar is equally harmless. It's the caviar's natural fat.

Keluga sturgeon caviar - processed malossol (with little salt) - from northern Manchuria has become available in recent years. It's pricey, but experts rate it almost as high as Caspian beluga - worth trying, if you can get it.

American sturgeon caviar has its fans, but connoisseurs find it disappointing when compared, side by side, with the best imports.

For many of us, lumpfish caviar was our first taste of what we were told was caviar. For many of us, it was our last. The typical lumpfish caviar is dyed red or black - the dye is edible but messy - with eggs that are crunchy and very salty.

It never will taste like sturgeon caviar, but it will taste a lot better if you drain the contents of a jar into a strainer, run cold water over it until the excess color and saltiness are gone, and serve it as a garnish or with lots of extras to compensate for its shortcomings.

Salmon caviar, sold in jars, is another supermarket-shelf caviar. Salmon eggs are big orange globes. I happen to like the way they pop, like bubbles in plastic package cushioning, when you bite into them. And they have their place. Caviar was never meant to be hoarded. It should, instead, be eaten a day or two after purchase. In the unlikely event you have bought or been given more than you can use at one sitting, smooth the exposed surface with a nonsilver spoon, cover with a skin of clear plastic, then replace the lid and refrigerate.

Connoisseurs eat and handle fresh caviar with materials other than silver because the salty caviar reacts with the silver, spoiling not only it but the caviar as well.

As a consequence, a gift of caviar might appropriately be paired with a gift of a special caviar spoon of gold, bone, ivory or mother-of-pearl. Lacking those, you can use a prosaic plastic picnic spoon. Just don't tell anyone I suggested it.

Prize caviar traditionally is served with warm buttered toast or blinis and without any additional embellishments. The caviar is spooned directly from the jar or tin.

To appreciate the flavor and texture fully, caviar should be burst between the tongue and palate and not swallowed whole.

Frequent caviar consumers may want to invest in the bowls and spoons designed specifically for this purpose. Such accessories occasionally are available where the caviar is sold.

Caviar with a lesser pedigree can be used to dress up holiday party dishes.

Here are some of our favorite uses:

Scoop out cooked baby red potatoes and fill with sour cream and top with caviar for an hors d'oeuvre.

Toss hot, drained pasta with creme fraiche and caviar.

Broil oysters or clams, then top with caviar just before serving.

Top hot potato pancakes with sour cream and caviar.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

Photo: (Color) Don't forget to pamper yourself during the yule season: Be extravagant and start your holiday dinner party off with beluga caviar.

Bonnie Weller/Philadelphia Inquirer
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Dec 22, 1996
Words:1162
Previous Article:HOLIDAY COOK'S BULLETIN BOARD : FREEBIE LEAFLET.
Next Article:CLUBS HELP YOU SHOP FOR FOOD WITHOUT ENDING UP A BASKET CASE.


Related Articles
COOK'S CORNER TUNA'S MORE THAN A SANDWICH FILLING.
CHECK OUT NEWS AND TIPS.
JUST FOR MOM; CALIFORNIA-STYLE CREATIONS FROM NEW COOKBOOK.
COOK'S CORNER : MAKE A CAVIAR MOUSSE MOLD FOR YOUR NEXT SPECIAL OCCASION.
3WORDS THAT SAY LOVE RAMEKIN, PAN, WINEGLASS.
GOOD TASTE.
GOOD TASTES.
The Whole Foods Diabetic Cookbook.
Simple (even free!) Christmas gift ideas.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters