Caviar’s role as the premier delicacy of kings, emperors, and other heads of state stretches all the way back to the Persian Empire and the “Cake of Power” days of the delectable Sturgeon Roe. It’s hard to come by, even harder to pay for, and what many people might not realize, hard to prepare and serve.
The most important thing to remember is that when you buy caviar, you have a limited window to use it. Fresh caviar is good for at most four weeks. Though, if you decide to purchase pasteurized product, you’ll be safe for a while longer. After opening though, you’ll want to use your caviar as quickly as possible, within a couple days at most.
In terms of taste, caviar is a very fickle food. It’s incredibly tasteful, evoking every response in the various arenas of your tongue. However, you’ll want to make sure that when you serve it to guests, you don’t disrupt that taste by drowning it out.
The best way to serve your caviar is to leave it in the tin, surrounding it with ice. If you try to take it out and pretty it up, you risk breaking the grain and losing the flavors before it even reaches your mouth. Secondly, you want to make sure whatever you serve it with doesn’t offset its flavors.
As an hors d’oeuvre it is best served on lightly toasted bread or crackers, usually with butter. You don’t want the bread or cracker to be too hard or you will risk losing flavor once more. There is a common misconception that serving caviar with eggs or other strong tastes like sour cream or yogurt is a good choice, but more often than not you only succeed in completely drowning out the taste of your caviar in doing so.
In terms of beverage, there are a few different opinions on the matter. Firstly, there is the classical choice of Champagne with your caviar. Many find it to be too sweet though, once again taking away from the taste of the caviar, but the tradition is old and so too is the draw of that tradition. Vodka is another traditional pairing, cleaning your palate each time to taste in full the various flavors.
Caviar is a delicacy of the highest order, and accordingly it’s foreseeable to be confused or even nervous about how best to serve it. There are many aspects to take into consideration; its freshness, its palatability, the after taste, and how strong other flavors come across. Keep all of these in mind when serving to get the most and the best out of your caviar.
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Anthony Chatfield provides information on caviar and other gourmet food and drinks for A1 Gourmet - your guide to the best gourmet food around the world.