For a while last year and earlier this year, bottarga, it seemed, was the new black. Like truffles, it had become, if perhaps more temporarily, the new foodie trend obsession and blogs everywhere were doing all kinds of inventive things with it, like this, this, even this. Never wanting to feel left out of something, we fell into contact with a very nice gentleman, Robert, from Florida, via our friend Claudia at Cook, Eat, Fret who generously supplied us with a sizable shipment for free!
Robert, on top of being such a kind-hearted soul, is a craftsman of some note who actually hand-makes his own bottarga (smoked, dried roe/fish egg sacs) from Gulf of Mexico mullet, and after hearing our plaintive cries took pity and sent us some in the mail. I am absolutely positive that he thinks us the most ungrateful and churlish tykes in this hemisphere as this was no less than six months ago and we have nary said a word to publicly acknowledge him, his delicious product (which you can learn more about here), or our indebtedness, since.
Excuses are of little use here, and Robert, if you’re reading, we are not only sorry for not getting around to this sooner, but ashamed because we’ve actually been enjoying your bottarga at regular intervals in the meantime as we figure out how to use it in a new and interesting way. As you’ll see from the links to other friend bloggers above, the most common way of serving it is in the traditional Sicilian dish of spaghetti alla bottarga, a delicious pasta dish created with lemon juice, parsley, and olive oil, but since we were way behind the curve on this, we thought it better to let sleeping dogs lie rather than reprise dishes others had made and pretend we weren’t copying them.
So, after six months of thought, testing and increasing panic, we made a fantastically simple, yet elegant, and unbelievably good appetizer with firm, unfrozen diver scallops quickly pan-fried in butter served over a platform of wilted spinach and topped with excitingly colored blue-black lumpfish roe caviar and decorated gaily with the gratable sunshine that is bottarga. A little brown butter (beurre noisette) sauce contrasted with the marine flavors of the double fish egg effect nicely offering a touch of fattiness.
Of course, this wasn’t the only way we’ve enjoyed Robert’s bottarga, we’ve also enjoyed it sliced very thinly on blinis with sour cream and chives, and most recently, as a fabulous brunch dish (or appetizer) topping loose scrambled eggs. Bottarga’s strong flavor may not be loved by all, but when worked into dishes that balance it with fat or starch or when used sparingly over lean proteins, it makes a meal that truly warrants all the foodie hysteria, not unlike truffles, in fact.
- 4 large diver scallops (unfrozen)
- 1/2 cup baby spinach
- 4 tbsps unsalted butter
- 2 tsp black lumpfish caviar/roe
- 2-3 tbsp grated bottarga
- Heat 2 tbps butter in a skillet over medium-high heat
- In a separate pan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil and wilt baby spinach in it for about 40 seconds before removing to a plate
- When butter is completely melted and frothing, carefully place your scallops in pan.
- After 1 minute or when face-down side has turned golden brown, turn scallops over.
- After another minute, remove scallops carefully with tongs. Discard remaining butter.
- Take spinach pan and discard water. Wipe pan dry and replace on heat.
- Gently heat remaining butter and allow to color for a couple of minutes, until a nice chestnut brown color.
- Arrange spinch artfully and top with one or two scallops.
- Dress with brown butter
- Spoon lumpfish caviar on top of scallops before grating bottarga over everything.
- Enjoy with something crisp and white, perhaps even a fino or manzanilla sherry.