Poutargue, Bottargo, Bottarga?
Bottarga in Palermo, Sicily and French Poutargue from the coastal region near Marseille
What is poutargue, aka bottargo or bottarga? It is salt preserved roe of mullet or tuna, a Mediterranean specialty, of which variations exist in Italy, France, North African countries, Turkey, Spain and Greece. The swollen egg sacs are removed in-tact from the fish, and conditioned for long conservation in salt, pressed between wood planks. Poutargue is traditionally enveloped in wax, but also can be found shrink wrapped.
In Sicily, at the salt flats in Trapani and in the city of Palermo, tuna bottarga comes from the bluefin. It is enormous, dried hard, and sold in slices by weight. Mullet poutargue from near Marseille is such a moist delicious marvel we buy it to make our Piccata de Veau à la Poutargue.
While the Italian connection is strong in our minds, a little research tells me that in France, poutargue goes way back, and because it travels well, it found its way up the Rhone to Lyon in the early 17th century. It is mentioned in Lyonnais literature (Huguetan, 1607) as a product from Provence that creates a healthy thirst called "Botarges". Its provenance is further clarified in the late 1700s, in the Dictionnaire portatif de commerce, which lists 8 Marseilles producers, in an area called "Martegue".
Shaved in thin slices and sprinkled with olive oil, it is delicious on salads, the salty flavor marrying beautifully with the bitter herbs and greens like arugula, wild chicory, frisee, and endives when they are in season. The trinity of poutargue, potatoes and green olive oil is sublime. Use your poutargue little by little, in shavings, slices, crumbled, anywhere you might envision the use of anchovies as well. The flavor goes a long way, so don't worry about the expense. You can make it last.
Labels: summer 10