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~Caviar - The Perfect Start to Any Holiday Celebration~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08947070970dThe word caviar, which refers to lightly-salted roe, aka fish eggs, comes from the Turkish word khavyar and dates back centuries. There are many types of caviar, but true caviar comes from sturgeon, which has been a big part of the Middle Eastern and Eastern European diet for all of their history, and, caviar from the Caspian Sea and rivers of Russia has always been considered uber-premium.  In order of high-end to low-end pricing, there four types of sturgeon caviar: beluga, sevruga, oestra and ship -- and no sturgeon caviar is what I consider cheap.  

The experts will all tell you, when choosing any type of caviar, let your palate, not the price, be your guide.  I am a prime example as I find some of the inexpensive caviar choices (the Japanese black tobiko roe and American Alaskan red salmon roe for example), remarkably more to my liking.  Once upon a time in the Middle East and Europe, caviar was reserved for royalty and their guests.  Here in 19th century America, when our waters were full of sturgeon, salty caviar was, surprisingly, sold uber-cheap or served free in saloons to get customers to drink more beer.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08947a7a970dA bit about caviar utensils and etiquette:  Just like fish and seafood, all caviar should be very fresh, so, purchase it from a reliable source within 1-3 days of serving it. Because heat and oxygen are caviars worst enemies, it should be kept refrigerated and unopened until just prior to serving it in a non-metallic bowl nestled in a larger bowl of cracked or crushed ice. Since metal affects the taste of caviar, caviar spoons are typically made of mother-of-pearl, bone, tortoise shell, glass, wood or plastic.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7f05f2b970bUnless it is being used as a garnish, caviar is served as an hors d'oeuvre.  It's meant to be eaten in 1/2 teaspoon portions, and, it's considered bad manners to heap more than that on each appetizer. 

As for what to drink with caviar, while I like fine French champagne as much as the next person, no self-respecting gal of Russian descent would ever serve her caviar with anything other than iced shots of the finest frozen Russian vodka available. "Nasdrovia!" "To health!"

How much to buy & the classic caviar service:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d17a4319970cDon't get nervous, none of the following info is etched in stone.  It's all about the caviar, it's the star of the show, but, caviar is to be accompanied by items that enhance its flavor, not interfere with it.  When it comes to the foil, or the bland, edible, bread vessel it will be placed atop, while toast points or water biscuits are perfectly acceptable, purists all agree that Russian buckwheat blini (small, 2"-2 1/2"-round yeast-risen pancakes) are considered traditional and classic.

Estimating how much caviar to buy: There are, give or take, 8-10, 1/2 teaspoon servings of caviar in 1 ounce.  That means, the 2-ounce jar of caviar pictured here should be enough to make 16-20 appetizers -- if everyone plays by the 1/2 teaspoonful rule.  I plan on 2 ounces of caviar serving 4 people.  Because caviar is best served opened fresh (within the hour) and chilled, I almost always purchase a few smaller containers, rather than one large one, and refresh it as needed.

What to serve with caviar:  Once you've decided on the foil (which for me is always buckwheat blini), plan and prep the accompaniments. Sour cream (or creme fraiche if you are French), chopped hard-cooked egg (whites and yolks chopped and served separately), minced red onion and minced chives are mandatory.  I also include, for those not fond of caviar and to stretch the amount of caviar consumed, small chunks of pickled herring and thin slices of smoked salmon.

Try your caviar on my recipe for Russian Buckwheat Blini:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08947286970d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)


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