Want to know how Alexandre Petrossian, one of the world’s foremost experts on caviar, likes to eat it? Straight out of the tin, curled up on the couch, watching a good movie.
If you’ve only ever thought of caviar as fare for swanky parties or high-end restaurants, served alongside truffles and Champagne, you might want to give Petrossian’s version of Caviar and Chill a try.
For one, the stuff is an often overlooked source of those precious omega-3s we Americans don’t get enough of—Spanish researchers found that fish roe, particularly salmon, is one of the best natural sources of omega-3s. Omega-3s, in particular EPA and DHA, have been linked to lower levels of depression, cardiovascular and brain health, infertility, and many chronic diseases.
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If you don’t have an affinity for fish, caviar can be a good alternative. “In general, omega-3s tend to be highly concentrated in the gonads of most animals. So it would make sense that caviar would be high in omega-3s,” says Paul Greenberg, author of The Omega Principle. The majority of U.S. caviar is sustainable, too.
And it isn’t all exorbitantly expensive. Annie Byrne, a fishmonger from Coastal Seafoods in Minnesota, says she carries wild salmon caviar for $19.99 for 3.5oz and paddlefish for $38 per ounce. She says Alaska salmon caviar is the best tasting, and is the best value. Byrne recommends looking for eggs that are bright, clear, and firm (the eggs should look almost like capsules), and smell like the ocean: salty and bright.
Pricier caviars tend to be aged longer, which is reflected in their grade and stronger flavor, and Petrossian suggests beginners steer clear of those options anyway. “You want to work your way up to higher grades,” he says.
Despite what you may have heard, Petrossian says, good caviar is not salty. Royal Ossetra, a variety of sturgeon caviar he says will mesh well with most novice palates, is subtle and slightly nutty, without much fish flavor. “The flavor to me is in between a sea urchin and an oyster,” Petrossian says. Another good entry-level caviar is Kaluga. Lots of caviar sellers offer samples so you can get a taste for what you want.
And while Petrossian may eat caviar like popcorn, he’s a purist who likes to enjoy it solo, without capers, eggs, onions or any other of the traditional accompaniments which he believes overpower caviar’s delicate taste. His only other caution: Avoid silver utensils, which will interact with the roe and spoil them. That’s why it’s often served with a small mother-of-pearl spoon. But however you eat it, “Don’t be afraid of it,” he says. “At the end of the day it’s very easy to enjoy.”