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.
28 thoughts on “Fish Egg Th-roe-down: Diver Scallops with Lumpfish Roe and Bottarga”
I’m afraid I’m not familiar with bottarga. I guess I’m a bad FL foodie. Maybe I should look up Robert or go catch me some mullet. Your dish looks very elegant.
This dish looks amazing!
Inspired and it looks beautiful.
I think it was Claudia who said bottarga is the bacon of the sea – which is such a good way to put it (I’m assuming we all love bacon)
I love scallops and thankfully have a source nearby that carries fresh ones. When I feel the need to indulge, that’s my mainstay. This post makes me wish for those translucent and succulent little orbs. What a beautiful dish!
i live for bottarga. god bless robert. wonderful, kind, interesting and eloquent man that he is…
i will say that i have never used a teaspoon of bottarga in my life. one entire lobe (1/2 a sac) does pasta for 2!
I hear ya… i used about 1 tablespoon per scallop so i updated the recipe. but, yes, i could use 1/2 a sac for 1 scallop too. in fact, i could eat the stuff with my fingers it’s that good.
Wow, this looks absolutely beautiful and sounds delicious! Scallops here in FL are amazing!
Hmm … must try. The closest thing to this I’ve had is the Japanese karasumi that people have with sake. Not exactly my cup of tea. But everyone’s been saying bottarga is delicious, so on my to-buy list it goes. (I hope Santa is reading this …)
one last thing
amy? i believe, if i remember correctly that a certain promise was made to robert via heather just a year ago…
Geesh.. No no, not here Claudia…….. I was hoping for a meetup sometime……… Maybe even sprinkle some Bottarga all over everything. (Uh… sorry A+J)
What a fabulous scallop! I love the addition of bottarga! I haven’t had a chance to cook with it yet, hope to get a hold of this stuff sometime soon!
I have heard of this but have never tried it. Thanks for the interesting write up. The scallop dish looks wonderful – I hope to make it soon.
The picture is awesome! I can never get my scallops to behave like that… inspirational… thanks for the post!
The key to getting your scallops like that is to buy the good/expensive ones that are large and were never frozen. the reason why scallops can’t get seared like that is b/c they were previously frozen and then release all their water in the hot pan. Each of those scallops cost about 1 dollar – expensive, yes. this is why it was an appetizer! so talk to your fish guy and make sure you ask about the scallops before you purchase them.
I am not able to buy bottarga here in NJ (that I know of), but I love it.
This is a great first course. Beautiful!
I did a caviar tasting once that was crazy and amazing! What a beautiful site you have here, and now I want scallops!
I love the way you have styled the food in this post. Love the very first photograph and the point of view of the photograph. I wonder if we used a plain white plate (without those blue design) it would have been more exciting and tempting. Thoughts?
we actually took more pictures of a dish on a white plate and it looked fine but the pictures/lighting wasn’t as good. but thanks for the comment and the tip!
looks awesome… and a great entry for “Seven Fishes Feast” if you’re interested.
ooh chica i want to try some of the bottarga! looks so plump and delish! great plating.
You’ve got me with the scallops — but a bit of the “bacon of the sea” and I’m totally yours! definitely worth the wait!
I love bottarga or as us Greeks call it, “avgotaraho”. A little goes a long way and you’ve served up an exquisite dish. This stuff is perfect (decadent) for the holidays.
Oh, my–what a gorgeous thing that is–beautifully conceived, cooked and styled, a treat for heralding the New Year. Miz Fret has the connections!
Delicious and colourful… Mmmmm, just one per person? I’m afraid that if I try one I could eat another!
Not familiar with bottarga either; never tried it before, but wouldn’t mind to receive and invitation from Brooklyn ;D.
Beautiful photos!! Great holiday app. Linked to your page on my blog today–keep up the good work.
We have a botarga equivalent in Japan called Karasumi, of which the quality is judged by the color (lighter is better, because the dark ones have more blood which changes the flavour). Looking at your pics this looks like some high grade botarga!
Just came back from Copenhagen…with a jar of lumpfish caviar! Though I’m no a scallop person. Lovely photos