We hear it all the time from customers at TJ’s: “I love caviar, but who can afford it, especially in this economy?”
What most people don’t realize is there is now fantastic domestic caviar available here in America…available at a fraction of the cost of imported products.
You might think of caviar as an imported luxury, but well into the 20th Century, most caviar came from the United States. American caviar–eggs from domestic sturgeon fish–were so plentiful that saloons gave it away like peanuts.
But, like so many other fish, overfishing nearly led to American sturgeon’s extinction.
By the 1970s, that overfishing (and Soprano’s-style interference by the Russian Mob) destroyed 90% of the Caspian sturgeon, too. The caviar market looked doomed.
Thankfully, roe from “paddlefish” sturgeon saved the day. You’ll see this product called “hackleback caviar.” It’s delicious, 100% sustainable and a fraction of the price of imported caviar.
Unless you have a refined caviar palette you won’t taste much difference. If you know caviar, the taste is similar to Sevruga, with deep nutty flavors. Hackleback caviar costs just 25 percent of what you’d pay for imported caviar.
At these prices, caviar doesn’t have to be for a special occasion. I like to serve it the traditional way– with a mother of pearl spoon and blini pancakes, which you can buy from several local retailers, including TJ’s. Then I add grated egg whites & yolks, red onion, capers & creme fraiche.
Or you can use caviar as a garnish on rich dishes like pasta alfredo, where the nutty, salty flavors really shine. Or serve it at a make-your-own-sushi party.
My favorite domestic caviar is the Steve Connolly brand, which is sold in one ounce tins. Expect to pay $50-60 an ounce, though it’s less expensive per ounce if you buy it in larger size tins.
You have to eat caviar right away, so don’t plan on leftovers. But, really, why would you?
Jon Alexis is the co-owner of TJ’s Fresh Seafood Market & Catering, 11661 Preston Road, Dallas.