Sturgeon Astrakhan

Here’s a decadent little recipe to take a break from your local / seasonal / sustainable routine. I named the dish after the city of Astrakhan in the Volga delta, (once) renowned for its rich sturgeon population. The idea is pretty simple: a thick piece of butter-poached, meaty sturgeon buried under spoonfuls of caviar.

Obviously this isn’t a cheap meal, and it would easily reach $100 per person in a restaurant. If you make it at home, though, it doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive. You can find very good and affordable paddlefish roe, and the cost of a portion will be around $30. Just don’t start using other kinds of roe whose only resemblance to caviar is a darkish color. The results won’t be the same!

Here are a couple sources for paddlefish roe:

  • Kelley’s Katch ships anywhere in the US.
  • The Net Cost Market on Sheepshead Bay Road in Brooklyn has a good selection of fish roe (I’ve never been to the other locations). And it’s the mecca of Russian food shopping — you’ll never want to waste your time in other specialty supermarkets anymore.

I took the sous-vide cooking time and temperature for sturgeon from Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure: Cooking Sous-Vide. Don’t be discouraged by the whole water bath thing, this is a very easy recipe! If you just have a thermometer, it’s not that hard to maintain a pot of water at a fixed temperature for a few minutes by adding hot or cold water. The only special sous-vide gear you really need is a vacuum pump like this one from Ziploc, and a few bags that go with it.

Finally, the dish is pictured below with goat cheese agnoletti.  Next time I serve it, I would try some veal pelmeni tossed with haricots vets and butter instead. Green beans go surprisingly well with caviar, and I love the veal-fish association.

Caviar sauce
Yields 4 servings

4 oz caviar
3 oz sour cream

  • Take the caviar out of the fridge.
  • In a small saucepan, heat the sour cream to a simmer, then remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm. Weigh 2 oz, and discard the rest.
  • Gently mix the caviar with the sour cream using a spoon, and reserve. The sauce should be served near room temperature.  Don’t reheat it, or the roe will be ruined.

Butter-poached sturgeon
Yields 4 servings

24 oz cleaned sturgeon fillet (skin and dark flesh removed), cut into 4 squares
salt
6 oz butter
clarified butter (or canola oil)

  • Season the sturgeon with salt on both sides, then place in sous-vide pouches with the butter. Cook in a water bath at 142 F for 16 minutes.
  • Take the fish out of the pouches, pat dry, and sear in clarified butter in a hot pan for a few seconds.
  • Serve immediately, topped with the caviar sauce.

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