We think of pizza as an accessible and easy meal that the whole family looks forward to on the weekend. It’s associated with parties, sporting events, and all-around good times — plus, it doesn’t break the bank like a full sit-down dinner at a restaurant.
But like so many greasy favorites, crafty chefs always get their hands on the classics and “elevate” them with top-notch ingredients and advanced preparations.
No matter how you feel about the $20 burger craze, you have to admire the artistry that goes into some of these creations.
Caviar pizza takes things to a whole new level of indulgence, but is it actually worth eating? Let’s talk about the caviar-on-pizza trend and decide whether it’s just a passing fad or something that’s here to stay.
A DEPARTURE FROM TRADITION
It should go without saying that caviar and pizza do not traditionally mix. While cured sturgeon roe has historically been reserved for the upper echelons of society, pizza is made of cheaper ingredients and prepared in big batches to be consumed by everyone.
This was the norm for centuries, from before the middle ages to the dawn of the 20th century. However, things began to shift as middle-class families gained more economic power and markets expanded into creative new territory, especially in the area of cuisine.
Following the end of the Second World War, united families had the time and money to invest in quality foods and prepare them at home and the chance to eat at restaurants on occasion. They were introduced to foods that were previously out of reach and tastes expanded.
As pizza grew more popular in the States, caviar also became far more accessible with the introduction of improved aquaculture techniques and sustainable farming. Since the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea had been overfished, new methods were needed.
From the fresh, natural springs of Spain to the cool rivers of Northern California, caviar-carrying fish have become far more abundant in recent years, thanks to the concerted efforts of farmers, entrepreneurs, and widespread demand for the product.
By the time the 21st century arrived, caviar was easier to find and more affordable than ever. It still maintains the luxury reputation and is by no means a cheap ingredient, but availability is at all-time highs, and a wide range of products can be found online.
Nowadays, we’re seeing caviar used more aggressively in classic dishes like pastas, omelets, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres, and yes, pizza!
WHY DOES CAVIAR PIZZA WORK?
While pizza and caviar were once on the other ends of the spectrum economically and socially, they have come together over time in a delicious union without much effort.
Caviar pizza works for a few reasons, primarily because different types of caviar pearls are salty, buttery, and naturally complement the savory and starchy characteristics of a pizza pie.
Caviar does not only add oceanic bursts of flavor to a normal slice of pizza, but it also brings a new dimension of texture into play, not too crunchy and not too soft.
As long as caviar is used sparingly on pizza and does not overwhelm the flavors of the dish, a teaspoon of caviar on an individual pizza or a few tablespoons on a larger pie can be a refreshing addition to a tried-and-true recipe.
With that in mind, there are some mistakes that you should avoid when putting caviar on pizza, despite having already broken with culinary tradition.
For starters, your pizza recipe should not have an especially thick or buttery crust. The Greek and Deep-Dish styles of pizza are delicious in their own right but are far too heavy and greasy to be deserving of a scoop of delicate caviar.
It’s far better to make a rustic, thin-crust pizza without a ton of extra butter or fat, only using a bit of olive oil and some all-purpose flour to bring out the flavors of the cheese, starch, and sauce.
Speaking of sauce, try to steer clear of the heavy tomato bases, puttanesca, bolognese, and other heavy, meaty marinaras when you are working caviar onto your next pizza.
Instead, try to stick with lighter, white-sauce pizzas with just a slight sprinkle of cheese that is more mild than salty. Sour cream, creme fraiche, or alfredo are all great white sauce options with your caviar. If you need a touch of tomato, use the freshly sliced ingredient rather than pouring a heavy tomato sauce on the base.
It’s also smart to let your pizza cool down a bit more after removing it from the oven and before scooping on the caviar. These cured eggs are meant to be served at around 35 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning a hot pie can ruin the delicate texture and flavor.
Your best bet is to place a spoonful of caviar on a slice immediately before enjoying your first bite, so you maximize the fresh flavors and don’t miss out on that key temperature contrast.
THE MOST EXPENSIVE PIES
Now that you have an idea of how caviar pizza should work in theory, let’s see how the world’s greatest chefs are making eachvorite caviar pizza recipe in practice.
What better place to start than with A-List celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who serves up a beautiful caviar pizza creation at his Beverly Hills institution, Spago.
This recipe has a “bagel and lox” vibe but still maintains that pizza look and feel. On top of rustic pizza dough, chefs layer on a creme fraiche base, spread some chopped red onion around, then coat every inch with thinly-sliced smoked salmon.
From there, four heaping spoonfuls of caviar are deposited onto the center of each pizza slice, one in each quadrant. Puck uses both black osetra caviar and red salmon roe to provide sharp color contrast and introduce new textures to each bite.
Expect to spend over $60 on this signature pizza.
Things get even crazier at some of the world’s most exclusive restaurants, where the goal seems to raise the stakes higher each time. You can find a $250 caviar pizza at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze in London, and an extravagant seafood pizza is available for $450 at Steveston’s Pizza in British Columbia, Canada.
Expect high-end ingredients like truffle, fontina cheese, prawns, pancetta, lobster, ground pepper, and of course, the most exclusive Russian osetra or black Russian royal sevruga caviar available. Make sure to brace yourself for the bill when you order these pies, or just go for a slice at a pizza stand down the street.
MAKE IT AFFORDABLE AT HOME
It’s always fun to fantasize about the various caviar pizza monstrosities available at the world’s finest restaurants, but you don’t need to drop hundreds of dollars on a single order to achieve the caviar pizza experience.
As we stated earlier, the pizza itself is not the star of the show when caviar comes into play, so don’t worry so much about the other ingredients involved. Focus on mastering a light, crispy dough, and use just popular items like a bit of cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, onions, minced chives, and herbs to complete the base.
To really feel the luxury, assemble your pizza on a wooden peel or board before transferring it to your pizza stone. Of course, dinner plates work for pizza decoration just as well, but the proper instruments will make you feel like you're on vacation in Cinque Terre. If you don't have a pizza stone, you can bake in the oven until the crust is golden brown.
Try making your pizza in 8-inch circles, kneaded enough to create paper-thin slices. Brush a 1/2-inch of the edge and the centers of the circles with olive oil to make sure it crisps nicely. You can even knead teaspoons of the minced chives into your dough for an added kick.
There is also nothing wrong with simply ordering a thin-crust pizza from a local restaurant and serving it up with a bit of caviar. Ask for a white sauce base and light cheese, so the pizza isn’t too heavy. Dab up excess grease and add any remaining ingredients like fresh greens, garnish with your remaining chives, and top with a spoonful of golden caviar to make it a fancy meal. You can even place a little of the black caviar in the center of the golden caviar for a truly luxurious meal.
With so many excellent and affordable caviars available, including American fish roe alternatives, you can easily make this caviar pizza dream come true!
A Slice of Luxury
The days of old caviar taboos are long gone, but you should still keep a few culinary fundamentals in mind when pairing caviar with pizza. Educate yourself on the various types of caviar to find one that fits your needs and budget, and figure out your next favorite recipe.