The Pleasures of Cheap Caviar

Why economy fish eggs are just as much fun as their expensive counterparts.

By Joanna O'Leary February 21, 2017

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Serve this "alternative caviar" on everything from crackers to cheesecake. 

You’ve Got Mail is far from my favorite movie, but I very much enjoyed the scene in which Tom Hanks is sparring with Meg Ryan at a party. To compound her annoyance with him for “stealing” her shop name, he helps himself to an extremely generous amount of caviar from the buffet. “You’re taking all the caviar? That caviar is a garnish!” she snarls in protest.

For me that interaction (albeit fictional) gave rise to a revelation: Caviar need not be something one doles out and consumes in dainty portions. So, here’s to eating it by the cup!

However, unless you have a swimming pool filled with gold like Scrooge McDuck, your budget will not allow for such liberal indulgence of real caviar, which by definition is the salted ova of only certain types of fish discovered in the Black and Caspian Seas. These varieties, most notably sturgeon, are divine, and unfortunately, extremely expensive. 

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Mr. Roland doesn't care much about facts, but he loves salty fish eggs.

But keeping in the spirit of our current administration, who cares if your “caviar” isn’t real or true? We are perfectly in favor of "alternative caviar." Cheap roe isn’t necessarily low quality; see for example, the monster 12-ounce jars of Roland “Black Lumpfish Caviar” or “Red Lumpfish Caviar,” both of which retail for around $15 at Phoenicia Specialty Foods. The former’s ebony pearls are so tiny that Lilliputians could use them as basketballs, but their flavor is intense and briny. In contrast, the larger scarlet bubbles of Roland’s red caviar are milder, less salty, and burst pleasantly in your mouth upon mastication.

With such bounty, it’s unnecessary to painstakingly dole out micro-dollops, so I suggest slathering either kind on an omelet, toast, or heck, even a slice of pizza. Sweet bases or sauces are also wonderful complements to caviar, so don’t think twice about inserting layers of jam or stone fruit on your caviar canapés. Finally—and trust me on this one—cheesecake undergoes an amazing metamorphosis with the addition of a thick crown of caviar. Pair it with wheat crackers and your guests won’t even realize they’re eating dessert first.

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