So I am back from the Great American Seafood Cook-off. Yes, Idaho, the coast-less, semi-arid, mountainous state sent a chef to a national seafood competition; a national competition that determines the queen/king of American seafood for a year. This year, 16 states competed for the crown. Check out this post for more details on last year's cook-off that aired on PBS.
Being from Idaho, my logical choice would be trout. And that is what I cooked last year. This year, however, I am prepared one of the lesser know aquaculture products that Idaho produces: sturgeon, a dinosaur of a fish that evolved before bones did. And those sturgeon have another great quality: caviar. The best part about Idaho sturgeon/caviar is that it is sustainable.
The sturgeon that I used comes from a company called Tsar Nicoulai Caviar and is based in Twin Falls and San Francisco. I was fortunate enough to get in contact with the owner and she agreed to help sponsor my journey to represent Idaho in the competition.
Down around the Hagerman area, Idaho has fresh springs that dump cool clean water into the Snake River. The water is ideal for growing fish that need cool clean water, like trout and sturgeon. That water has produced, literally, the best caviar in the United States—it retails for $700 an ounce.
For the competition, my sous chef, Mark Ballen, and I made a “cradle to grave” inspired dish. We used both sturgeon meat as well as the caviar. The dish also had the Idaho standards of huckleberries and potato (it's hard to leave the state without those flavors).
Marion, the owner of Tsar Nicoulai, gave me a great quote for fish eggs. “While all caviar is roe, but not all roe is caviar.”
By the way, we came in 7th.
Randy King is a local chef and food lover who thinks that Idaho has more to offer the food world that most people think. Click to follow Randy on Facebook.