A block of fish eggs doesn’t sound appetizing – but we have much to learn.
What Is It?
Imagine a super salty Parmesan that explodes on your palate like fireworks. That’s how I think of bottarga, or fish roe pressed to remove air, salted, air-dried and compressed further into firm blocks of ocean-flavored goodness. It can be made with the roe of bluefin or yellowfin tuna, bonito or cod, but the most well-known – and the prettiest – version of bottarga is made with the roe of grey mullet from Sardinia, Italy, which has a red-orange glow. Smooth, salty and delightfully fishy, Sardinian bottarga is downright addictive.
What Do I Do With It?
Bottarga begs to be grated. Breaking all that flavor and texture up into tiny bits helps it integrate into whatever dish you’re throwing it on, plus it’s too salty to handle in larger doses. Grate it over roasted vegetables such as asparagus and tomatoes; stir it into pasta and risotto; or sprinkle it on top of garlic bread, pizza, eggs and bagels with schmear. Lemon also dials down the salinity – think what a wonder lemon is over any fish – and keeps it from overpowering other flavors.
Don’t cook bottarga: It can be gently heated – stirred or twirled into hot dishes and sprinkled over others – but you’ll kill the flavor with high heat. And never buy pre-grated bottarga: Head for the whole block, which is less expensive than you might expect. To purchase quality bottarga, your best bet is the internet, and if you find that you like Sardinian bottarga, expand your horizons with other types.