Today is National Caviar Day. Unlike other food celebrations, National Caviar Day was designed with a message. The day was designed to serve as both an awareness of the food source and a celebration of the delicacy of Caviar.
Traditionally speaking, Caviar is the roe harvest from Sturgeon. Sturgeon Caviar is the real deal. There are several species of Sturgeon Fish, which means caviar comes in a variety of colors, textures and “grains”. Caviar is packed with protein and vitamins, making it a healthy delicacy. While sturgeon farms exist, depending upon the breed, sturgeons don’t reach harvest maturity until somewhere between 6 and 25 years of age. Farm production is costly and requires a great investment in time.
While we think Russia when we think Caviar, once upon a time the United States led in the distribution of Caviar, distributing 600 tons a year. That was a long time ago, when harvesting Sturgeons simply for their roe was a free-for-all. Due to the over-harvesting of Sturgeon Fish, the U.S. banned harvesting all together for a time to protect the Sturgeon from extinction. Despite the temporary ban, the population has never fully recovered. As a result Sturgeon Caviar is considered a luxury demanding a high price due to restrictions in harvesting, importing and exporting the roe.
I grew up in Central California, with a crisscross of rivers. Once upon a time, Ocean going vessels made their way up from San Francisco to Sacramento via the Sacramento River. Summer on the deep waters was the norm. So was fishing. While I’ve never caught a Sturgeon, I have seen them. Gotta tell you, those are big, ugly prehistoric looking fish.
Is there a difference between the real deal Sturgeon Caviar and roe harvested from other fish such as the Lumpfish? Yeah, there is. The texture of Sturgeon Caviar is more pleasing on the tongue, and the flavor mild. While some Sturgeon Roe is salty, it’s never “fishy”. However, as a garnish or in small quantities, Lumpfish Caviar will give you that feeling of Wow, this is special. While Lumpfish tends to be more to the salty-fishy side, it’s still good, just not as good. You don’t need to tell anyone that your tin of caviar only costs about three dollars an ounce. While most Lumpfish Caviar is black, sometimes you can get the red or gold variety. If you do, snatch it up. I love to do fancy Party Potato Platter as a appetizer at the holidays.
For today’s celebration, I thought a traditional Blini topped with Lumpfish Caviar and Sour Cream was perfect.
Blini with Caviar and Sour Cream
1/2 cup warmed Whole Milk
1 teaspoon Quick-rise Active Dry Yeast
1/2 cup Flour
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 large Egg, separated
2 tablespoons Butter
1/2 cup Sour Cream
4 oz Lumpfish Caviar
Chives as desired for garnish, optional
Warm milk to 115-degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the yeast, warm milk, flour, salt, and egg yolk. Stir together to blend and then whisk until smooth. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let the batter rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes.
In a pristinely clean bowl, beat the egg white with a balloon whisk until stiff, pointed peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Using a rubber spatula, fold into the batter gently but thoroughly.
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Lightly spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and place in the warm oven.
Melt about 2 teaspoons of the butter in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat. Ladle 1 rounded tablespoon of the fluffy batter onto the pan for each blini, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook until the bottoms are lightly browned and bubbles have formed on the top, about 3 minutes. Flip the blini over and cook until browned on the second side, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the baking sheet, cover with aluminum foil, and hold in oven to keep warm. Cook the remaining blini in the same way, adding butter to the pan as needed.
Note: the blini can remain in the warm oven for up to 30 minutes before topping and serving.
To serve, spread about 1 teaspoon sour cream over the top of each blini. Top each with a generous 1/2 teaspoon caviar. Arrange on serving platter, garnish with chives and serve at once.