How to serve and eat caviar.

Osetra caviar and creme fraiche on a blini

Last week we celebrated our 8-year wedding anniversary¬†and as Paul is almost impossible to buy gifts for, I decided I’d put together a celebratory anniversary lunch. He’s a big fan of caviar – not quite sure how he acquired this habit as neither of us grew up eating caviar – so caviar it was.Caviar tasting with champagne at home for anniversary lunch

Just like Tom Hanks in Big, I was a caviar virgin and I didn’t want this to happen:

So I spent a little time with my friend the google and found out the following useful information about how to serve and eat caviar:

  1. Caviar must be kept very cold at all times, in the coolest part of your fridge or on ice.
  2. Air is the mortal enemy of caviar. Once you’ve opened that tiny jar of caviar you really need to eat it in one-sitting. It can be better to buy multiple small jars vs. one big jar. If you absolutely can’t eat it all in one-sitting then smooth it down and gently place a piece of plastic wrap over the caviar, replace the lid and you can keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  3. Caviar etiquette calls for small bites, so don’t, you know, shovel it in.
  4. No metal spoons – they make it taste funky – only bone, crystal or mother of pearl. Plastic can be used in a pinch but seriously, if you’re eating caviar you may as well do it properly right? I personally don’t have many bone or crystal spoons ūüėČ but you can buy affordable mother of pearl spoons on Amazon.
  5. If you have really good caviar then savor it bite by bite alone. If you want to make your caviar go further, you can enjoy it on small unsalted crackers, white bread or toast points or blini.
  6. Good caviar doesn’t really need any accompaniments but it’s all a matter of personal preference. Most websites seems to be vehemently against the use of lemons but popular is finely diced red onion, capers, finely chopped hard boiled egg (ideally white and yolk separated) and creme fraiche or sour cream (helpful to “stick” the caviar to the blini).
  7. Enjoy caviar with champagne or ice-cold vodka, they clear the oils from your tongue allowing you to fully enjoy the caviar experience.
  8. Caviar is best enjoyed with someone special.

We have the wonderful Browne Trading Company close to home so I stopped by and asked for some advice in what to buy. They were super helpful! As luck would have it they were having a once-a-year sale on caviar and suggested I take advantage of this by choosing some of the more pricey options.

I ended up with three tiny jars of caviar – from left to right –
American White Sturgeon Classic
Osetra Supreme
Caviar Galilee Royal Osetra

As I didn’t happen to have any crystal or bone spoons lying around (if you have crystal or bone spoons you probably eat caviar with the same frequency as I eat grilled cheese!) I also bought two little mother of pearl plates and spoons:
Mother of pearl plates and spoons for serving caviar

I figured I’d have all of the accoutrements available – capers, onion, creme fraiche and eggs (boiled for 10 minutes, cooled, white and yolks separated and then finely chopped)
How to serve caviar - popular accoutrements

I set out two small glasses of vodka, I guess hypothetically it should have been Russian vodka but I’m a big fan of Cold River Vodka made right here in Maine. The vodka and glasses had been in the freezer so they were icy cold. We also had champagne and blinis on hand:¬†How to serve caviar with vodka and blinis

Here was the final spread: Tips on how to serve and eat caviar at home

There’s something about caviar with all of the trimmings that feels special and festive and we had a most enjoyable lunch.¬†¬†I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the caviar, it wasn’t at all fishy or slimy like I imagined! ¬†Next time, I’d probably skip all of the accompaniments, other than the blini with a dab of creme fraiche. I’d love to tell you I could taste the difference between the different caviars but I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Paul insisted he could with the Royal Osetra being his favorite. I guess we’ll just have to wait for our next anniversary to try it all again ūüôā

Are you a caviar fan? Do you have a favorite? What kind of food do you like to eat on special occasions?


How to make turkey stock

With all of the turkey meat used up in our Thanksgiving sandwiches and Thanksgiving turkey pie, I was left with a rather ginormous turkey carcass. I used to think making stock was complicated or there was some kind of mystery to it but it couldn’t be easier and once you’ve made your first batch of stock you’ll likely become a stock¬†convert. There’s something strangely gratifying about taking a bunch of bones destined for the trashcan¬†and turning them into a rich savory and nutritious¬†liquid that’ll add so much depth and¬†flavor to other dishes.

Here’s all you need to know:

1. Put meat bones in pot, add vegetables of choice (usually a peeled carrot, a stick of celery and a peeled and quartered onion), cover with water, simmer gently for as long as you like.
2. Strain, cool, remove fat from top if necessary. Season. Enjoy alone or in other dishes. 

And speaking of stock, is it stock? Broth? Bone broth? What’s the difference between broth and stock? Here’s the skinny thanks to the guys at Epicurious:
Broth – water simmered with vegetables, aromatics and meat for 45-2 hours. Results in a light, flavorful liquid, perfect for the base of a soup.
Stock – water simmered with vegetables, aromatics and bones (may be roasted, may still have meat on them) for 4-6 hours. Used to deglaze pans or as a base for a rich sauce or gravy.
Bone broth – somewhat of a hybrid of broth and stock. Water simmered with roasted bones (may still have meat attached) for a long time, up to 24 hours to extract the collagen, gelatin and nutritious minerals.

One final word about making stock – don’t think you can throw any old crap into the pot and boil away. Garbage in = Garbage out. So peel your carrots and onions, don’t use rotting vegetables and simmer it gently!
[Edited: there are also schools of thought that the peel on the vegetables adds to the flavor – try it both ways and see which you prefer!]

Here’s how I made turkey stock from our Thanksgiving turkey:

We had a 17lb turkey so that was a pretty big carcass, I didn’t want my stock to taste of the residual stuffing still inside the bird so I used just the legs (meat still attached), wings and breastbone. With a chicken, smaller turkey or non-stuffed turkey I would have just put the whole thing in the pot. I added a couple of carrots (peeled and cut in half), two celery sticks, a peeled and quartered onion, added enough water to cover the bones, popped on a little parchment paper lid (to prevent my stock from escaping) and left the whole thing on a low heat overnight.

Waking up to the rich scent of the broth made me want to eat soup for breakfast! Here’s what was waiting for me in the pot after around 10 hours of simmering on a low heat:

To strain the stock I find it’s easier to fish out as much of the solids/bones/vegetables as possible (otherwise your sieve gets stuck). You’ll see all of the stuff I removed (with tongs) on the left and what was left in the pot on the right. Some people would use the meat but I feel like it’s had all of the flavor and goodness cooked out of it at this point so it usually goes to the dogs.

Cheesecloth-lined sieve used to strain the stock, just ladle it in. As your cheesecloth or sieve starts to collect all of the little bone fragments and other stuff you might want to use a spoon to gently push them aside to let your golden stock filter through.

The stock went into the fridge to cool for a couple of hour and when it came out it was the consistency of wobbly jell-o (you can reduce it down further to make intense stock for soup dumplings but that’s another blog post for another day). You can see the little layer of yellow fat on the top which easily scrapes off with a spoon.

And that’s it! I ended up with about 6 cups of intensely rich turkey stock. 2 cups went in the freezer for future use and I used the remaining 4 cups to make a loosely-Asian-inspired soup (adding reserved shredded turkey meat, cooked ramen noodles, beansprouts, soy sauce, ponzu) served with more beansprouts, lime wedges and hot sauce on the side.

Tips for making stock:
РIf roasting a chicken, buy a few extra wings or even a couple of legs to add to the pot with the chicken carcass for a richer stock
– Don’t boil your stock on a high heat, simmer it gently. At higher temperatures more volatile aroma and flavour compounds will be released, leaving a flatter-tasting stock
– You can add any aromatics to your stock – garlic, lemongrass, lemons, ginger, bay leaves, juniper, thyme or other herbs depending on what you plan to do with it.
– A fatty bird like a duck will likely give you quite a fatty stock. When you remove the thick layer of yellow fat from your cooled stock don’t throw it away! Roast a few peeled potatoes in it (you can also keep the fat in the freezer if you don’t have any potatoes on hand)
– Freeze your stock in recipe-appropriate portions, I usually have baggies of 1, 2 and 3 cups of stock in the freezer so I can grab the right size and not have to defrost too much.
– When freezing, lay your baggies flat until frozen, you can then store them upright and they don’t take up too much room. You can also snap off a piece of frozen stock if you don’t want the whole bag
–¬†Consider skipping the final seasoning when freezing stock (just label it “unseasoned”), if you’re using it at a later date with other salty ingredients (bacon, parmesan etc) then you don’t have to worry about having an over-salted final dish.
– Use your flavorful stock for soups, sauces, stews, risottos and more.

Ideas for turkey leftovers

I’m still not quite sure what possessed my husband to think we’d need a 17lb turkey for just the two of us but let’s just say we’re¬†not short of leftovers right now. After delicious¬†Thanksgiving sandwiches¬†yesterday, I figured I’d try my hand at a Thanksgiving pie to try to make a dent in the baggies and baggies of food hanging out in the fridge.

Earlier this year I wrote about picnic pies and how they could easily be adapted for Thanksgiving or Christmas.¬†I was feeling too lazy to make cute little individual pies so went for one big pie. I used a regular pie crust for the bottom and wanted puff-pastry on the top. ¬†As this is a dish specifically designed to use up leftovers there isn’t an exact recipe per se, but here’s what I did:

Ready-rolled pie crust placed in a greased pie dish, pricked to prevent it rising and baked in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes.

We had turkey and stuffing galore but thought I’d caramelize a finely sliced onion for a little more flavor.

Dice up the leftover turkey (or leave it in slices or shred it, whatever your preference). There’s nothing worse than a pie with a dry filling so why not¬†use up any leftover gravy?. If you don’t have any leftover gravy you could maybe use a little chicken stock. You want to add just enough to make it moist, not sloppy.

If your stuffing is coming straight from the fridge it can be hard to spread in a thin layer without causing damage to your fragile pastry. I dumped out the stuffing onto a layer of saran wrap, added another layer of saran wrap and squished in into a round shape before tipping it into my pie dish. Try not to squish it too much or it will get too dense. I added a couple of spoons of leftover Cranberry sauce spread out thinly over the stuffing before adding the turkey. 

Add the caramelized onions on top of the turkey (or you could fry up your leftover Brussel Sprouts until crispy, use a little leftover bacon, some sausage meat Рyour pie, your choice!)

Trim the corners off the puff-pastry sheet to make a round pie shape (save them to make leaves if you’re feeling crafty) and pop on top of the pie. Use your fingers or the tines of a fork to crimp the edges together.¬†Brush with a little egg wash and add your pastry leaves if using. I realized I’d usually add a little vent hole where my leaves where so I made a few alternate holes!

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake in a 375 oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes so the top can brown.¬†Let cool for 5 minutes to firm up and then slice and serve. A crisp salad, a few pickles, a little chutney would all work fabulously. I like to photograph food in natural window light but there was no way we were waiting until the next morning to cut into this baby ūüėČ

We’re left with just the turkey carcass now, I plan on slowly simmering the bones with a carrot, celery stick and onion overnight for some kind of Asian-inspired soup tomorrow…