For all its opulence and expense, the dirty little secret of caviar is that it is, in essence, a topping. It’s a condiment, and an unruly condiment at that. It’s a comically messy food for people who abhor messes. Its consistency means that it can often slide off of things with alarming ease. Getting caviar to stay on a piece of melba toast represents the most First World of First-World problems. And there’s no easier ripoff in the restaurant biz than tacking on a $200 supplemental expense for a thimbleful of caviar dropped onto a wad of pasta or a piece of nice fish, where it will immediately roll off and/or be overwhelmed in flavor by the very thing it’s supposed to overwhelm. Caviar is a very needy, slippery, high maintenance food. Therefore, it demands a delicate hand and the utmost of care…
Unless I happen to be the one tasked with preparing it. This week, the fine folks at The Takeout sent me $400 worth of Osetra caviar imported from the mercenary lands of Bulgaria. They did this because 1) As always, fuck Univision, and 2) They wanted to see what kind of unholy creations I could make with such a prissy foodstuff, the way I did with a big-ass piece of Wagyu beef a while ago. And I agreed with them: Sending me a buttload of caviar was not only the right thing to do from a culinary standpoint, it was also a moral imperative.
In recent years, worldwide demand for caviar has pushed several species of sturgeon, most notably the fabled beluga, to the brink of extinction. As a result, the United States has banned the import of beluga caviar, at least until the Trump sons lobby for that ban’s reversal. The Takeout, understandably, didn’t want to purchase unsustainable blood caviar from Iranian pirates marauding their way across the Caspian Sea. And so they did the responsible thing and bought me the farmed stuff. They did this via Costco. I thought buying it from Costco meant I would get a hogshead worth of cav for $4.50, but apparently their bargains only extend so far.
Costco warned us that the caviar should be consumed with 24 hours of opening. This would not be a problem for me, as I am a big hungry boy who can eat a lot of tiny fish eggs without much fuss. Still, I only had one day to transform this fabled ingredient into something potentially even classier. I also planned to put it on a hot dog. So join me now as I take you on a very refined and elegant caviar odyssey…
There it is… $400 worth of primo sturgeon uterus droppings. Delicious. Please note that it took me 20 minutes to open this tin, because caviar is vacuum packed for freshness. I gave that fucker everything I had and it wouldn’t budge. I started to worry that my meaty palms were heating the caviar up and ruining it. After a while, I surrendered and asked Google for help. Turns out a bottle opener was all I needed. I am a moron. Anyway, to christen this tin and its precious caviar inside, I did what any rational American would do. I dunked a chicken tender into it.
How to make it: Dunk a chicken tender into some caviar.
Should you make it? Probably not. I know that video looks disgusting but it tasted fine as far as opening salvos go. I actually overcooked the chicken finger in the toaster oven, rendering the meat tough and rubbery. This was a shame, because I think a properly cooked tender perhaps could have jibed with the silky luxuriance of the Osetra. I offered some of the caviar to my wife, who does not care for caviar in general.
“That’s all you,” she told me.
“Suit yourself! It’s mine all mine now!”
“Are you gonna eat that whole tin? I don’t think that’s good for you.”
This, of course, was nonsense. Did you know caviar has practically zero carbs in it? If anything, I needed to make it unhealthier. So I put it onto a Pringle with some canned onion dip.
How to make it: Spoon some onion dip onto the valley of a Pringle, then add a dollop of caviar.
Should you make it? No. But aren’t those pretty? Normally I buy my onion dip from the dairy case at the store. But I was in a rush and I plucked an unrefrigerated can of Utz onion-flavored creamy secretions from the chip aisle instead. It tasted powdery, which was kinda weird. I also used sour cream and onion Pringles for this, to amplify the powdered onion flavor. Turns out I went too far. The caviar got lost on the initial bite, only to pleasantly reveal itself at the finish. That’s what you pay for when you buy fancy-ass caviar. You want those little bubbles to pop. It’s like a mouthful full of fishy bath salts. You’ll have to trust me that it’s better than I just made it sound.
Anyway, potato chips and caviar can work together, and the valley of the Pringle cradles the caviar nicely. But I would use regular-ass sour cream in the middle next time instead of creamed diarrhea.
How to make it: I broiled a wiener, then griddled the bun in straight butter. On one side of the dog is the Osetra. On the other is a little bit of (Randy Marsh voice) crème fraiche.
Should you make it? Okay, the answer is no, but I was onto something. As you might have guessed, the hot dog kind of washed out the flavor of the eggs. So I took out the remaining half of the frank and licked the caviar off. I’m not too proud. Then I devoured the buttery roll with just the crème fraiche and caviar inside. And that was monumental. Would eat again. You could sell a caviar roll to Manhattanites for $600. My colleagues at Deadspin were unconvinced:
Their loss. Next experiment!
How to make it: I followed this recipe to make a smashed cheeseburger, only I didn’t have hamburger buns around, so I just laid it on top of half a hot dog bun. Then I dumped the Osetra on top. No mustard. No ketchup. I’m not a monster.
Should you make it? Yep. I know the burger above looks sad and terrible, but I assure you it was tasty. And yes, I’m aware that my thumb looks like shit in that photo. I’m gonna write this whole stupid post and you’re just gonna goof on my busted thumbs for it. Whatever. I’m the one who got to eat a motherfucking caviar burger. I win.
By the way, if you’d like to make a caviar burger at home but don’t have $400 sitting around, I can heartily recommend some alternatives that can still give you that hit of deep saltiness without cleaning out your checking account. Salmon caviar, bottarga, and Greek taramasalata are all extremely delicious, and cost a fraction of what Osetra costs. Treat yo self!
How to make it: Put some caviar on a spoon and then offer it to your dog.
Should you make it? Nope. Look at Carter turn his nose up at my offering. This fucking dog will eat his own asshole but not some of Bulgaria’s finest? There’s no accounting for taste, I guess. By the way, after I showed this video to my colleague Albert Burneko, he told me that caviar was “bad” for dogs and that Carter might “go into kidney failure” if he had eaten it. Well thanks for telling me after the fact, Bert! Real smooth work there, dickbag.
How to make it: Dump some cheese onto a pile of chips, bake it, and then top with caviar.
Should you make it? No. You might not believe me, but cheese and caviar can actually pair well together. No less an authority than Eric Ripert says so. You can make that combination work… unless you are me. If you are me, you burn the first batch of nachos, then undercook the second batch, and then get a wad of half-melted supermarket cheddar sitting in your mouth before the good stuff kicks in. I have some regrets.
Later in the day, I offered some of the Osetra to my kid, straight up. Here is her review of caviar: “It’s so weird! But kinda good? It’d be good on sushi.” Well girl, there’s no sushi in the house. What if it we put it on some KraftMac instead?
How to make it: Prepare boxed macaroni as directed. You know what to do afterward.
Should you make it? Yes ! I’m as shocked as you are, but the first bite of this was terrific. There was legit harmony between the Osetra and the cheesy pasta (for the record, this is Annie’s mac and cheese and not the Kraft kind). Not coincidentally, the first bite of this was the best for me because it had the most caviar. To make a lot of these stoner caviar foods sing, you need a lot of the caviar, far more than a restaurant is probably gonna be willing to give you. Because once the caviar is gone, the rest of the pasta looks like it got infested with bedbugs.
Still pretty good! Ready for dessert? Let’s try it!
How to make it: Look at the photo, man. It’s not fucking rocket science.
Should you make it? I still haven’t decided. Caviar and vanilla ice cream ought to be disgusting, right? This was very much not disgusting. It felt wrong to eat, and yet I ate the whole thing. The saltiness of the caviar pairs well with the ice cream, and the brininess only comes through at the end, when you want it to. Would I pay for this in a restaurant? Reader, I would not. But maybe you would if you were a rich asshole. Honestly, most people who order caviar order it just because they can. They don’t care if you put it on a fucking bratwurst or whatever. For another sweet/salty pairing, I was going to put the Osetra on top of a doughnut, but my kids ate the doughnut before I had a chance to. Little fuckers.
Time for an aperitif! Shall we, comrades?!
How to make it: Drop some caviar into a shot glass. Add chilled vodka. Is time for party?!
Should you make it? I’m gonna say yes to this, even though I fucked it all up. When I took the shot, the caviar stuck to the bottom of the glass. So all I got was a hit of straight, burning vodka. Then the lump meekly tumbled into my mouth and I was rewarded with a smooth finish. I think, in Soviet Russia, you have the caviar and then chase it with the vodka. But doing it bass-ackwards was still a fun experience, and I think I’d rather have the caviar flavor linger in my mouth more than the vodka flavor. Livened up my Tuesday quite a bit!
At this point, I went to bed with just over half the tin eaten. Turns out my wife was annoyingly correct: you should probably not eat that much caviar at once. I went to bed that night and my arteries throbbed like a fucking disco. But I was determined to finish the tin off the next day, and by god I did it in style...
How to make it: Mash up an avocado, mix in a drizzle of olive oil, some lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Spread it on a piece of warm toast, and then top with caviar.
Should you make it? No, and I have to tell you that I was oddly disappointed. Yes, everyone loves to goof the New York style section subjects who eagerly plunk down $22 for guacamole bread. But the reason avocado toast became a big fad is because it legitimately tastes good, and I figured the creaminess of the avocado would pair well with the Osetra. I was wrong. I got a mouthful of average guacamole and barely a hint of the good stuff.
I should also note that I consumed all of these in my standard writing getup of lounge pants and a T-shirt. I didn’t dress formally for my caviar, and I’ll admit that failing to do so detracted from the experience. I know there’s a sordid thrill to be had in eating and drinking rich guy shit in trashy ways, like when Paul Giamatti drinks the prized pinot out of a Styrofoam cup at the end of Sideways. But the formality of caviar is part of its appeal. I’ve had nice caviar in the past, because I am a fancy dick. And I’ve always been dressed up for it, because it suited both the occasion and the food. You dress fancy, you eat fancy, you feel fancy. Sometimes it’s nice to feel fancy. For the full effect, you should eat this in a coat and tie, at the University Club, with a fucking cellist playing somewhere nearby. Alas. I briefly considered grabbing a sport coat from my closet to finish off the tin. But that was all the way upstairs and I didn’t feel like it.
How to make it: Okay, so the traditional presentation of caviar usually includes blinis, which are small buckwheat pancakes, accompanied by sour cream, chopped egg, and chopped onions. Putting all of this onto a single pancake is high comedy… a wobbly little Jenga tower of a canapé. So I opted for just the pancake, some (Randy Marsh voice again) crème fraiche, and the Osetra. Also, I was too lazy to make blinis. Those are some Eggo mini-pancakes we had in the freezer.
Should you make it? Hell yeah, you should. There’s a reason pancakes and caviar are preferred by genocidal tsars and megalomaniacal Russian oligarchs and reliable hitmen. Apart from eating it straight out of the tin (which I did frequently, using the mother-of-pearl spoon that was thoughtfully included with the order), this was optimal caviar eatin’. The Eggos were a little tough because I nuked them for too long, but no matter: this was still awesome. You might think you need hard textures to contrast the softness of the caviar, but you would be wrong. You want that shit soft and smooth and seeeexxxy. Which brings us to the end…
How to make it: That’s not the spiffiest omelet I’ve ever made, but it did the job. That’s eggs, scallions, salt, and pepper. Nothing else. Then I cleaned out the final remnants of my beloved Osetra on top, along with the requisite (one more time) crème fraiche. This was the end for me. I’m glad I saved myself for this moment.
Should you make it? Yep. This kicked so much ass. I’ll never forget it. Caviar was made for eggs, baby. Eggs on eggs. Egg-ception. I’ll never have a lunch at home this nice again, unless the The Takeout sends me, oh I dunno, a pound of rare Corsican white truffles. How about it, boys? Huh? Huh?