Monday, June 27, 2011

Home Made Botargo

I learned of this savory seasoning (spelled differently in each region) last year on the great show 'Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern' shot on coastal Italy. It is VERY expensive but I made mine for next to free. It is raw fish roe sacks fermented and dried for months packed in salt. It is shaved onto hot pasta and other dishes where it lends a flavor like anchovy but less sharp and not all all oily....more like a very dry Parmesan. Last Thanksgiving my friend Pat's fishing buddy Paul gave me two BIG pregnant mullets he'd just caught as he and his wife don't like mullet. I removed the roe sacks, cooked and ate the mullets, then did the following.

I lined a clay orchid pot with a paper towel (to keep the salt from spilling out the holes) poured in about 2 inches of fine sea salt and coarse ice cream salt, laid two roe sacks atop that, buried them in more salt, added the last two roe sacks, more salt until it was slightly higher than the rim of the pot,  laid a coffee saucer atop that, then set a 10 lb. weight on the saucer for the needed compression. This assembly was on my dead dryer in my unheated uncooled laundry room where it remained until a month ago. It was exciting to take the roe sacks out of the salt, now shrunken and VERY hard, like a super dense block of Romano cheese, exuding a rich savory smell. Guess who cooked up a batch of spaghetti noodles added to onions and garlic and arugula sauteed in olive oil, then topped it all with freshly ground botargo and romano cheese?! Like I always joke, some sweet guy with awesome pecs should marry me for my cooking and insatiable sex drive!

I hope to strike an arrangement with a commercial mullet fisherman as they discard the roe, and make botargo in bulk in a large wooden box packed with salt like I saw on Andrew's show that night. Yummy!


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