Gift Guide: Roe, Roe, Roe Your Pasta

November 29, 2016

bj-bottarga-slicedIt’s no secret that I love bottarga: it’s one of the staples in my kitchen, something I keep on hand to make a quick, incredibly delicious  pasta (recipe below), shave onto salad, or enhance just about any vegetable dish with its umami goodness. I grate it over many savory dishes, using it like especially delicious bread crumbs.

Bottarga, which is sometimes called poor man’s caviar, is the dried roe of mullet. For years I’ve been buying a Greek import, but I’ve just discovered the wonderful, sustainable Bemis and James version, made in Florida, which I like better than anything I’ve had in Sicily, Greece or Japan (where it is known as karasumi).

A little goes a long way – and lasts a long time.  For $35, this would be a great gift for any serious cook with an appreciation of the salty side of life.

bj-spaghetti-2

Spaghetti With Bottarga and Bread Crumbs


Shopping list: 1 pound spaghetti, 2-4 ounces mullet roe (bottarga di mugine), 1 lemon, parsley
Staples: olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, red pepper flakes, homemade bread crumbs
Serves 4.

Boil a large pot of water for pasta.
While the spaghetti cooks, gently sauté the thinly sliced garlic and a fat pinch of crushed red peppers in about a half cup of good olive oil just until it becomes fragrant.
Take as much bottarga as you can afford (classic recipes call for 6 ounces for a pound of spaghetti, but bottarga’s so expensive, and so powerful, I tend to use about half that much), and shave half of it into thin, delicate curls. Grate the rest.
When the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss it into a bowl with the olive oil mixture and some finely chopped Italian parsley. Toss the bottarga with the pasta, along with the zest of one lemon and a good handful of bread crumbs, and serve.

Home Made Bread Crumbs

Cut a good loaf of stale bread into cubes and grind it into crumbs in a blender or a food processor. (A blender is better; it gives you a more uniform texture). If your bread is not stale enough to crumb, you can dry the cubes out in a 200 degree oven for about 15 minutes before grinding.

Spread the crumbs onto a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until they are crisp and golden. Drizzle with olive oil (about a quarter cup for every 2 cups of crumbs), season with salt and allow to cool completely before putting into containers.

These will keep in the freezer almost indefinitely. Just stick them in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off before using.

These will keep in the freezer almost indefinitely. Just stick them in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off before using.

This is another use for bottarga, one I copied from April Bloomfield, who serves it at The John Dory. She uses the Sardinian bread carta di musica, which is considerably thinner than matzo, but sadly hard to find.  (Should you want to make your own carta di musica, it’s not difficult; here’s a recipe from the King Arthur Flour website.)

Bottarga Sandwiches

Bottarga, thinly sliced

1 package thin, crisp crackers or matzos

unsalted butter, softened

red chiles, very thinly sliced

Generously butter a cracker with butter and sprinkle with the chiles, sparingly or generously to taste. Add the sliced bottarga and eat with enormous joy.

 

 

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