30 December 2009


"Charlie Chaplin has sold a 1,000-word excerpt from
his autobiography to the soviet newspaper
Izvestia for nine pounds of caviar."

New York Times, September 22, 1964

Susan Friedland has a broad and bold take on Caviar. Her first book was about Ribs, and frankly, I simply adore a girl who loves her ribs and caviar.

While her book features a basic history of caviar, her recipes feature caviar as an ingredient as well as an expensive garnish. She includes several recipes for caviar substitute, many Russian, as she tells us while the Russians love caviar, they also know how to fake it. She features several types of roe in her recipes, including the dried mullet roe botarga.

As the holidays are winding down, I find there is nothing more comforting than a lovely risotto.

Caviar Risotto

1 cup bottled clam juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4-5 tablespoons minced onions
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup aquavit, dry vermouth, or dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons salmon caviar

1. In a saucepan. Mix the clam juice and 4 cups of water and bring to a simmer.
2. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and sauté the onion slowly in it, stirring from time to time. The onion should be soft but not browned.
3. Add the rice and stir to coat with butter and onion. Raise the heat and pour in the aquavit or wine. Boil off the alcohol, stirring constantly.
4. Lower the heat, add 1 cup of the simmering liquid, and keep stirring until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another cup of simmering liquid and stir until that’s absorbed. Keep adding the liquid until the rice is creamy and still firm. Toward the end of the cooking time, add the simmering liquid in smaller quantities; never stop stirring or the rice will stick and burn. After the last of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is virtually done, add the heavy cream, stirring to combine. Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a folded dish towel. Let sit for 2 or 3 minutes. Gently sir in the caviar and serve immediately.

If you have an interest in caviar and want to learn more about this ancient fish story, Inga Saffron’s book, Caviar, is a detailed history of how a food eaten by peasants was transformed into the indulgence of the Tsars.

And our final word on caviar comes from a shaken but not stirred James Bond:

“The trouble always is,’ he explained to Vesper, ‘not how to get
enough caviar, but how to get enough toast with it.”

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