Saturday, April 16, 2011

Suzy’s Caviar Pie

I’ve often thought about hosting an Appie Potluck Party, but some people are phobic about making appies. As Fussy Finger Foods, appetizers are the dreaded FFFs of the kitchen. Most people would rather shop for appies at Costco; the art of hand-making them is slowly fading away. What a pity!

Appetizers fall into two broad categories: The kind you eat out-of-hand or on a small plate before you proceed to the main event, and the kind you scarf down before the main course. There’s a sub-category, too. In rarefied circles, the “appie before the appie” is known as an“amuse bouche” or “amuse gueule” - a tiny tonsil-tickler intended to whet the appetite. It’s complimentary in fine restaurants - the chef’s little party trick to show he or she trained somewhere other than Costco.

How many appetizers should you typically serve, per-person? If you’re having an early meal, expect guests to eat four or five. If the meal’s going to be late, count on six or seven. If you’re not serving a meal, your guests will consume eight or nine appies, on average. I tend to cook as though I’m expecting the Red Army: I’d rather see people well fed than have them leave hungry.

A few years ago, I met a California neonatologist who truly was a gifted cook, able to carry on a lively conversation as she rammed fresh tomatoes and basil into a food processor to make her famous Gazpacho soup. A brilliant and charming woman (thank you, Dollinks, but I’m talking about my friend Suzy), she was kind enough to share her outstanding Caviar Pie with me (I don’t mean that we ate it by ourselves - she generously gave me her recipe).

Suzy made me swear I’d never share it with anyone - but you’re not just “anyone,” are you? You’ll need a bank loan to prepare this, because even lumpfish caviar is expensive! Save it for special occasions, if you must. I consider it among “the best of the best” of my recipe collection.  

Suzy’s Caviar Pie:

10-to-12 hard-cooked eggs, grated (see Note)
2 tbsp. onions, finely chopped
½ c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 c. (500 mL) full-fat sour cream (see Further Note)
One 3-oz. (85 g) jar black lumpfish caviar, well drained (see Yet Another Note)
One 3-oz. (85 g) jar red lumpfish caviar, well drained

Combine eggs, onions, and cooled butter, mixing well. Lightly pack into 8- or 9-in. glass pie plate or similarly rimmed dish. Spread  with sour cream. Freeze 10 minutes - only enough to harden butter. Keeping the red and black caviars separate, drain well before placing each color on separate layers of paper toweling to blot dry. 

Using a ruler or cardboard “template” wrapped in cello to keep the lines straight, “stripe” alternate colors of caviar diagonally across the dish. (If this sounds difficult, I promise you, it’s not!) Get creative and draw a fancier template, if you prefer. As long as your caviar’s well drained and you don’t ignore the template guide, the colors won’t intermingle. Chill well between caviar “stripings.” Because this dish is rich and rather salty, I serve it with slices of baguette or water crackers, rather than with strongly flavored crackers. 

Note: Never boil an egg! To “hard-cook” an egg, place it in a pot of cold water, turning the heat on your stove-top to “high.” Before immersing the egg in water, prick one end to prevent its bursting as the water heats to a boil. When the water reaches the boil, turn off the heat, allowing the eggs to sit on the cooling burner for 20 minutes. Plunge into an ice water bath (not you, dummy, the eggs!), peel (if I’d been talking about you, I’d have suggested you peel before the ice water bath). Grating hard-cooked eggs produces a superior texture and “mouth feel” to chopping them.

Further Note: If you’re going to have a splurge, have a splurge! This is not the time to use no-fat sour cream! It tastes unpleasantly gelatinous, resulting in disappointment rather than triumph. And this recipe is a triumph!

Yet Another Note: Caviar is sold in 1-3/4 oz. (50 g) jars in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live. I used two jars of black caviar and two of red for this recipe. Caviar has a short shelf life. Use this pie within 2 days.

Grate 10-to-12 hard-cooked eggs.

Mince a little onion finely. Combine onion + eggs + butter. 

Spread with sour cream; freeze. With template or ruler to
keep lines straight, dot with one color of caviar. Using the
back of a spoon, smooth and spread caviar very carefully.

Stripes can be any size or any design you like!

Repeat with well-drained red caviar.

Your completed Caviar Pie. Making a smaller one
is more economical! 

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