A Caviar Tasting with Martha
The owner of Petrossian swings by with the ultimate delicacy.
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Anticipation was at an all-time high in the test kitchen this week, for a visit from legendary caviar purveyor Petrossian. This time of year is all about indulging, but while the food editors have already had their fill of Christmas ham and cookies (remember Christmas in July?!), caviar is truly a rare treat. Third-generation owner Alexandre Petrossian came by with five different varieties for Martha and the team to sample-talk about a hard day at the office!
Petrossian, which was founded by Alexandre's grandfather and great-uncle in Paris in 1920, made its name on wild sturgeon caviar from the Caspian Sea. The company switched to sustainably farmed caviar two decades ago, when sturgeons became protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species due to overfishing and the illegal caviar trade. Petrossian now procures its caviar from farms all over the world-for the tasting, Alexandre chose his favorites from China, Israel, and Poland. "Typically, the older the farm, the better the product," he says, "because it's at least 10 years before you can produce any caviar."
Petrossian also takes the time to mature its caviar, which gives the roe a richer, more complex taste. "It's almost like a game," says Alexandre. "You're betting on the future, which is tricky, but if you catch the caviar at the right moment, it's amazing." Without further ado, he opened each tin with a quarter and passed around plastic spoons (we didn't think to dig out the fancy mother-of-pearl ones meant for caviar from the prop closet). While many connoisseurs consider a lighter color more desirable, Alexandre says it's the size and texture of the eggs that are more important. Price is based on the amount of work put into the caviar, but Alexandre believes that the "best" caviar is all a matter of personal preference-are you looking for something sweet and creamy or briny and tangy?
Since caviar is the family business, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more well-versed in how to enjoy caviar than Alexandre. For beverage pairings, there are no hard-and-fast rules, but "don't drink anything too sweet or flavorful," he advises. "It will stick on the tongue, and you won't be able to taste the caviar." You can't go wrong with a classic like dry Champagne or white wine. Sparkling water works well, too, as long as it's super bubbly.
Alexandre approved of Martha's favorite ways to eat the roe-atop twice-cooked potatoes or a simple baked potato (executive director of design Kevin Sharkey once even gifted Martha with a russet and a tin of caviar tied together with a ribbon for Valentine's Day!). Alexandre also got the food editors excited about trying his latest go-to: caviar with burrata, crushed hazelnuts, and hazelnut oil. As for shelf life, he recommends using up a tin within 24 hours of opening. If you're lucky enough to have some left over, be sure to store it properly: gently sweep the caviar to one side of the tin so there's less surface area exposed, cover with plastic wrap, and top with the lid. Then treat yourself to the most decadent breakfast the next morning: spoon the remaining roe over soft-boiled eggs.