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Ash and despair, with a hint of milk

Out of all the teas I recently bought, the one that I keep turning back to is the Coffee & Tea Exchange's Russian Caravan. It's a dense, smoky green and black blend. Smells like cooking fires and wooden caravans painted in faded circus colours. The taste is surprisingly mellow with sugar and milk, like sitting in front of a fire with a soothing cat on your lap. Actually, a lot like that.

When I was younger, I had a taste for lapsang souchong. As I grew older, my tastebuds petered out, finding the wok-bottomed, smoke-fired, black-as-ash flavours a little strong. The Russian Caravan strikes a nice balance between my good memories of lapsang and its likelihood of overwhelming the senses. An alternate theory goes that I have grown less bitter, but I find this remarkably hard to believe.

So I got it into my head a couple of weeks ago, I'd try to make bottarga. The simplest versions involved salting roe for about a week, akin to making homemade lox. I know there could be a bit more of a salting/drying process involved than that, but for simplicity's sake, I was not interested in hanging fish roe in my kitchen for a week to amuse Food Inspector Cat with. Off we went to Sun Fat Seafood, where the nice Moustache Uncle had an appropriate little bag of fish roe to experiment with. I had some tea leaves that had been immersed in soy sauce from my last batch of tea eggs lying around as well. Knowing that I would eventually attempt this, I dried out the leaves beforehand to help with the process. Tea-flavoured house-cured fish roe was then in order.

I got two kinds of fish eggs in my bag. One was a nice firm type, the other was a bit more squishy. After some washing and pat-drying, I layered salt, tea leaves, roe then more salt in a long enough container, sealed it, and stuck it in the fridge. Based on my (always dubious) research, I knew that mentaiko was essentially bottarga with less curing and a sake bath, so I planned to sacrifice the squishier, smaller roe earlier to feed my eminent impatience. That would be dinner tonight: house-cured fish roe with cream sauce on pasta.

I just scraped away my 48-hour-cured roe for this purpose. It was surprisingly unfishy. In fact, I almost want to say that it was fishier before curing. Now, whatever else I thought about it, it was still enough to summon both cats, including a determined Food Inspector Cat, so we should take my olfactory abilities with a pinch of salt (literally). Other surprises: after 48 hours, the squishier roe was remarkably firm, like cooked crab roe. I haven't tried it yet, as I wanted to really only cut open the sac right before it goes in the pan. Nonetheless, I've scraped and gently rinsed off excess salt and tea leaves, and the roe is soaking in some sake as I write. I trust Dorian. If he thinks it's delicious, it probably is. (How do you know he's my cat? Put him next to mystical people food, and you couldn't not know he's my cat.)

In other news, my first winter shoots have turned up in the EarthBox. I'm planting two different kinds of mustards and a row of carrots, figuring these are the most cold-tolerant plants I have (so say the seed packs). Tiny greens may eventually ensue, or not. I'm not sure. I don't think I'm a terribly good gardener. But even mustard shoots are delicious. I can work with that.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 21st, 2012 02:01 pm (UTC)
I'm a terrible gardener. I'm sure you'll have greens.

Cured roe sounds delicious. I have my own experiment on the horizon - a batch of homemade barley-peanut miso. I just got my barley koji yesterday.
Dec. 21st, 2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
I have more sproutses! As I told the cats, "Maybe we'll have plantses!" :)

I am still very curious about the koji, and looking to get some myself. It sounds really delicious! Let me know how the barley-peanut miso works out. Barley miso actually tastes quite like a rich beer. I wonder if the peanut mellows that in some way.
Dec. 25th, 2012 02:37 am (UTC)
I vaguely remember the Momofuku version of barley peanut miso being salty sweet.
Dec. 26th, 2012 08:43 pm (UTC)
Oh! That makes sense, like a slightly salty peanut butter with the natural sweetness from peanuts.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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