An Experiment in Recreation – Bottarga

Bottarga – An Italian ingredient that I love but cannot really afford it as much as I want to.

I was thinking about what Bottarga is; well it is smoked cakes of dried fish roe that you grate over some fresh Pasta or may be silky potato puree.  But in a functional description, it adds a rich flavour because of its Protein content, fishy (not everybody likes the fishiness), salty, a little smoky and it tends to have a touch of acidity (mild and not over powering).

So, I thought I could try and recreate it without the fish roe.  Here comes another of Natures greatest Protein sources, the humble egg.  Here is what I did and I will post the results once I taste it.

  • Four Organic Cage free Eggs local farm store.  If this works right, I may have to go find a local farmer who can give me a bunch of it since I have plans for this.
  • Got a Tupperware 6 inch square and layered about 2/3 cup of Kosher salt.  I used Diamond Crystal since I had it at home.  I don’t think it matters what brand but you don’t want it too coarse; that leads to reduction of contact with the egg.  Too fine and it may get too salty from too much contact.
  • Made four divots in the salt with my fingers.
  • Separated the Yolks from the whites with my hands, taking care to get as much of the stringy extra membranous bits without breaking the membrane and releasing the yolk to run.
  • Laid each of the yolks in the divots.  Used another 2/3 cup of salt to cover the yolks completely.  Loosely put the lid on top and shoved it into the back corner of the fridge.  The salt has to pull out the moisture from the yolk.

Three days later…

  • The yolks look gelatinous.  They are still a little soft at this point since a lot of moisture has been pulled out but they are not quite dry.  A good time to get the acidity on to them
  • Took some white balsamic vinegar and diluted it by half.  Used this vinegar to wash off the salt while gently scrubbing with fingers taking care not to break or scratch the surface of these yolks.
  • Layered them on top of a fine mesh cooling grate that fitted in side a Tupperware and put that in the fridge again.  Loosely covered the top with a Paper towel; nothing was touching the yolks.  This was to dry the yolks further and get them ready for smoking.
  • I flipped the yolks after two days to expose the surface in contact with the grate to dry better and left them alone for two more days.

Four days pass… Just forget that they are in your fridge.

  • I need to smoke these dried egg yolks.  They are dry but not hard crackly dry due to their protein content.
  • Set a metal dish on top of the stove, added some Alder wood chips (that is what I had in the garage).  Turned the burner to medium under them.  When they started smoking, turned the heat down to maintain the smoke but take away the excess heat so you don’t cook the yolks. Inverted a clear Tupperware so I could see the smoke and let them sit in the smoke for about 10 minutes.
  • Took them off and lay them not touching each other on top of a coffee filter lining a little plastic Tupperware.  Layered a couple of more coffee filters to loosely cover them and they are sitting on my counter.  Today is saturday and they have been going two days.  I will wait one more day and them I am going to grate them with a microplane and taste them.

They look like Bottarga cakes except they are ovoid rather than the pressed squared off Bottarga cakes you can get at an enormous price at the fancy italian grocery store.


I will tell you what the taste test comes out like tomorrow…


Update:  They were absolutely brilliant grated over fresh pasta

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