Serving caviar isn’t the most intuitive aspect of gourmet cuisine, but it shouldn’t be complicated, either. You’ve made a bold investment by purchasing quality caviar, and don’t want to waste a single pearl.
Let’s walk through a how-to guide on serving caviar the right way, and give you everything you need to know to make the most of your next tin or jar.
Storing and Opening Caviar
Whether you purchase caviar online from a trusted vendor or drive to your local gourmet food shop to buy in person, your main goal at first will be to keep that container cold.
From the moment the young sturgeon are born to when you finally scoop those pearly eggs from the jar, the entire caviar life cycle is typically just above freezing temperature.
Any colder than that, the fish and its eggs do not survive with the same robust vitality and flavor. If they become too warm, on the other hand, the quality will degrade as well, and all that hard work (many years of raising the fish and carefully extracting eggs) will be for nothing.
Protect the temperature of your caviar to the best of your ability, whether that means asking for an ice pack in your bag at the store or bringing your own mini cooler when you go shopping. If you live in a warm climate, make sure to get those precious pearls back home ASAP.
If you order caviar by phone, mail, or on the internet, you won’t have to worry as much about shipping and preservation, since purveyors take these processes very seriously. You’ll probably see your caviar arrive in a tightly-wrapped box with dry ice or another cooling agent.
The moment you arrive home with the goods, quickly move the container into the coldest part of the refrigerator, where the temperature should be between 28 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The eggs will not freeze unless temps drop below 28 degrees, so you have some leeway.
If your fridge doesn’t get that cold, you can use some ice packs to reduce the temperature by a few degrees. Just keep your caviar out of the freezer, especially if the product is high quality since the natural textures and flavors will be compromised.
When it comes time for the big reveal, you’ll feel the urge to crack that caviar open immediately and dive right in. However, you’ll need to be a little more patient. Remove your container from the fridge and set it on the counter unopened for around 5 to 10 minutes.
This will ensure the caviar comes up to just below room temperature when the full spectrum of flavor opens up and you and your guest have the best possible taste.
If you twist open your container and it appears the eggs are still tightly congealed and not moving freely, it means they’re still too cold and you’ll want to wait another few minutes. In the meantime, you should be setting up your traditional caviar serving station.
The Right Utensils and Etiquette
Eventually, the caviar will reach the perfect temperature and texture for serving, which is when you’ll want to transfer a substantial portion of eggs into a glass bowl to sit on ice. Remember to store any remaining caviar back in the fridge, and consume the rest within the next 48 hours.
Some folks just want to experience caviar on its own, with no accompaniments or complexities. That’s totally fine, and in fact, it’s always a smart move to try a small scoop of caviar only before you mix things up with other ingredients. You will get the unadulterated flavor of the caviar, which you can add to your mental hard drive and compare to other types past and future.
If you have the means, invest in a classic sterling silver caviar set with plenty of space for spoons and garnishes. Some sets even have slots for vodka flutes, completing the look feel of a traditional caviar experience.
We all want the royal treatment when eating caviar, but a simple setup is just as effective. As long as you avoid metal utensils and bowls, you’re in the clear. Metal does not react well with caviar, and it can ruin both your instruments and the eggs themselves.
Look for bowls and spoons made of tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, or with a gold-plated exterior for a more sophisticated look and feel, or stick with plastic or glass if that’s all you have on hand. The caviar will not change drastically when in contact with these different materials.
Slice up some lemon wedges and garnish with some sprigs of fresh herbs to add some color to the scene and you have a great minimal caviar plate suitable for royalty.
Other Classic Preparations
There’s nothing wrong with scooping caviar directly from the tin into your mouth, as long as you keep those utensils clean when sharing with guests. But we don’t blame you if you want to try out some different preparations and include starches, dairy, and veggies.
Start simple with mini bread triangles, lightly toasted in the oven and buttered to perfection. These are excellent delivery devices for your caviar, and the base flavors will not overpower the eggs. White flour bread works best, but you can also enjoy whole wheat or rye.
Buckwheat blinis are mini pancakes with a mild flavor and a fun, bite-sized shape, popular in Eastern European caviar preparations. Recipes are easy to follow if you want to take the homemade route, but they can also be found frozen at the store.
The blini can be directly topped with caviar, but it works best when there is a small dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche to separate them. The light and cool flavors of the dairy complement the starchy chew of the blini and the delicate oceanic pop of the caviar eggs.
As far as beverages go, you can opt for a very light beer or dry white wine and enjoy the flavors of caviar effectively, but the most classic pairings are champagne and Russian vodka, which should both be served chilled in flutes.
White wines like cabernet sauvignon, chablis, and chenin blanc offer light and citrusy profiles that pair well with caviar. When selecting champagne, the drier the better, so pick “extra brut” designations with as little residual sugar as possible.
Caviar can be used in more ways than you may think. Gourmet chefs use it as a temperature and texture contrast in carbonara pasta dishes, and some restaurants even offer caviar on pizza, which works surprisingly well.
You can go full Martha Stewart at your next dinner party and create puff pastry appetizers with caviar on top, or hollow out some roasted new potatoes and nestle some caviar inside with chives and sour cream. Deviled eggs with caviar is also a classic from back in the day.
If you really want to break with tradition, consider caviar at dessert, which can be done by scooping some eggs onto a thin wafer of white chocolate. As strange as it sounds, the sweet and salty dynamic provides an interesting and delicious treat.
Serving caviar has its roots in simplicity and clean presentation, and you should stick with the basics when starting out. When you master the essentials, incorporate different ingredients and start making your own caviar creations from scratch. Your guests will appreciate it!