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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Trout roe with creme fraiche on fennel salad

So my parking lot rendezvous with San Francisco Specialty Food continues.

As I was glancing over their caviar price sheet, what stood out wasn’t the laundry list of white sturgeon roe. It’s the salmon. Practically 10% of the caviar price. What a bargain I thought.

Salmon roe or, ikura, in a bad sushi joint, can be slimy, foul-tasting, offers no resistance, or pop. A double whamming of health hazard and culinary disappointment.

But, when they are good, they reflect light and sparkle. Every cool, little bead gushes a burst of sea water and fills the mouth with an oceany flavor that triggers imageries of small tidal waves rushing a rocky shore.

It is an infinitely addictive sensation. “Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a whole 4 oz jar of it and pop it all?” I dreamed.

I had to order for a side-by-side caviar tasting party (paddle fish and California farmed white sturgeon) anyway, why not try the salmon.

So I did and … yuck.

After I picked up the caviars at the parking lot of Alexander’s Steakhouse, I popped into the kitchen to say hi. Chef Stout was in the house. He took a quick peek into my box an yelled: “Get the trout roe! The trout is great, the salmon is BAD!”

On the kitchen counter, he popped open a brand new jar of his trout roe (also from San Francisco Specialty Food), and I opened my salmon. Chef beamed triumphantly with an implied “what did I tell you”.

Night and day difference, just looks alone. And their taste, sadly for me, reflected their look.

The salmon was grey, dull, no shine whatsoever. There is no clear boundary between beads anymore, just mush. The texture resembles tapioca, slimy.

I dared not analyze the taste too much. Just a hasty swallow to ‘get it over with’.

Trout roe with horseradish-spiked creme fraiche. Minced peanut brittle

The trout, on the other hand, every pearl glistened and looked inviting. I could see the angles on each bead and because they are smaller, I seem to get more pops each mouth full.  I was practically sitting on the rocks dangling my feet over the water.

What do I do with the salmon?!

“Return them.” Chef said matter-of-factly.

But it’s open!

The sales guy who was still lingering in the kitchen delivering winter truffles, explained that the trout is $10 more per 4 oz jar, therefore should be pretty self-evident that it’s a superior product. He then offered to take back the salmon, if it was unopened.

What I wanted to ask was: This is the company that offer Italian white truffles. Why include sub-standard products in the line-up? because it’s ‘cheap’?

After a game of shuffling engineered by Chef Stout, I did get my money back and took home the opened trout. Now I owe ASH an unopened one.

Two amuse inspired by the sensational quality of the trout. Hayden pulled a fennel out of the ground earlier, so I had it mandolin-ed and simply dressed with a sherry vinaigrette. The anise flavor accompanied really well with the trout’s oceany profile but the fennel’s crunchy texture regretfully took away the spotlight on the pops of the roe.

A fennel bisque would’ve been much more appropriate.

The other is horse radish-spiked crème fraiche with a sprinkling of home-made peanut brittle. Blanketed by the warmth of a soft blini, the luscious crème fraiche, the tingling horse radish, the hint of caramel and nuttiness of the brittle, diffused and paradoxically, accentuated the intensity of the trout roe.

It’s a carnival of taste and texture.

Dream realized. Thank you Chef, for the save.

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