Can you guess what this is? No, it is not smoked chicken breast. Hint: we’ve just returned from a wonderful vacation on the Italian island of Sardinia. It is bottarga di muggine, or the salted and dried roe pouch of grey mullet (muggine in Italian, or harder in Dutch), a specialty of Sardinia. It is a delicacy with a fishy yet elegant umami flavor. It reminds me a bit of salted anchovies, but much more subtle and delicious. It can be eaten thinly sliced with olive oil or lemon juice on bread or crostini, or on pasta. The fresh variety is vastly superior to the dry grated variety in a jar. Here is how to make spaghetti with bottarga. The lemon zest is optional and should be used with restraint to prevent overpowering the bottarga. When used with restraint, the lemon zest balances out the flavors and makes the dish even more elegant.
For 2 servings
at least 50 grams (2 oz) fresh bottarga, about half of one roe pouch
150 grams (1/3 lb) spaghetti
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
grated zest of 1/4 lemon, from an untreated lemon
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the spaghetti. Meanwhile, remove the thin layer of wax that protects the bottarga with the help of a small knife.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and add a minced clove of garlic. Stir over low heat to infuse the oil with garlic, but make sure the garlic stays white or very lightly golden. Browned garlic would ruin the delicate flavor of this dish.
When the water boils, add a tablespoon of salt and the spaghetti and set the timer according to the cooking time on the package for al dente.
Add some grated lemon zest to the garlic, if using. Do not use too much.
Grate about 50 grams of bottarga (or more, be generous).
When the spaghetti is almost cooked, scoop out a few tablespoons of the cooking water…
…and add to the frying pan with the garlic.
When the timer beeps, drain the spaghetti and add to the frying pan. Add the bottarga as well (you could also grate the bottarga directly onto the spaghetti).
Turn off the heat and toss the spaghetti until it is coated with the mixture of bottarga, olive oil, and cooking water. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may wish to add more salt, bottarga, or lemon zest.
Serve at once on preheated plates, sprinkled with some more freshly grated bottarga.
An obvious choice is a Vermentino from Sardinia, but many other dry white wines will work. There are two levels of Vermentino from Sardinia: Vermentino di Sardegna DOC and Vermentino di Gallura DOCG. The latter is from the best area and I have not tasted a bad one yet.
Panang is a Thai curry made with meat and red curry paste enriched with peanuts, cumin, and coriander. It does not contain vegetables, except that it is garnished with chiffonaded kaffir lime leaves and thinly sliced red chilli peppers. This is a Panang Curry with pork belly cooked sous-vide. The result was great: the pork belly was very tender and juicy, and the long cooking time allowed the curry flavor to penetrate into the meat.