Some time before we moved to the U.S., we decided to hire a tutor to brush up our English. The lady was a former compatriot of ours, who had emigrated a long time ago to the U.S., lived there for years and years, and then came back to Ukraine to enjoy her retirement in the city by the sea. We loved our lessons. Not only they were very useful to us in terms of English skills, they also gave us some narrative and a preview of the life in the United States — the every day life of the ordinary people, as interpreted by our lovely and elegant tutor lady.
One of the lessons was dedicated to food, grocery shopping, what regular people are cooking on regular days, etc. We were intrigued and somewhat puzzled by the lack of culinary creativity of the lucky Americans, who, as we pictured it, had access to some of the most luxurious foodstuffs of the world at a reasonable price, available any season. Our lady tutor told us about one of her American coworkers boasting about his wife making a special breakfast of French toast for him on Sundays. Huh? French toast? French toast was served to us on a regular basis as most common of breakfasts. Hmmm, we thought, this can’t be right!
But the worst part was that Americans in our tutor’s stories seemed to be disgusted by all the foods we considered delicacies — liver, kidneys, tongue, brain, rabbit, duck, blood sausage, salt pork, cracklings, meat jellies, sour milk, farmer cheese, etc… Miss Neta told us a horrifying story about a small box of chicken livers spilling on a supermarket’s floor, and how people were walking around it with a mask of horror and disgust on their faces, unwilling to approach as much as ten feet to it. Americans are weird, we decided there and then. This didn’t, however, keep us from emigrating, thank Goodness!
After we jumped over the pond, it didn’t take us very long to discover that only some of the stories told by Miss Neta were true. Yes, many of the Americans we encountered had very different ideas of what tastes good and what is considered to be a fancy meal. But they were not all Americans. We had much and much to learn here. We became familiar with a diverse culinary scene, little by little discovering international and even exotic dishes and adopting the ones we liked. We found that there were, indeed, grocery stores that carried items we missed about our home cooking, namely Eastern European deli numbers, fantastic fish varieties, even raw and unaltered dairy, insane variety of grains, legumes, mushrooms, spices, and herbs… And we eventually learned that there were many of Americans who were very much interested in more than just a proverbial French toast for breakfast.
One thing, however sadly, was confirmed. The prevailing majority of people we met were put off by the idea of consuming “scary” stuff — offal meats, naturally soured milk, non-chicken-or-turkey poultry, game, anything but a few common varieties of completely cleaned fish fillets, and don’t even get me started on fish skin — it’s still a sore point between my perfectly American husband and me.
Is it any surprise at all, then, that I can’t serve this dish in my house, unless I am willing to consume it all by myself? Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all upset by the prospect of keeping my Fish Roe Pie all to myself, but I am really disappointed that I can’t share the enjoyment of it with my immediate family.
Today I am posting this recipe because I want to show you guys that there are different ways to look at unfamiliar food. This simple skillet pie is very easy to make, and I am hoping that some of you are willing to try something outside your usual repertoire. It’s not fishy at all, and it’s got a millet or coarse polenta like texture, yet it’s packed with the purest proteins. It also calls for no flour, just 1/2 cup of light bread crumbs as bulking and thickening agent, so it won’t bump up your carbohydrate intake, if you are counting carbs like me. If you ever purchase a beautiful whole Carp fish and discover roe inside, this recipe is a quick way to utilize the roe. I hope you enjoy both making and eating it.
Fish Roe Pie
- 1 lbs fresh water fish roe (typically carp), approximately 2-3 lumps
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs (Panko is best)
- 1/2 to 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp or more fresh chopped herbs, such as tarragon, parsley, cilantro or dill
- pinch ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2-3 tbsp shredded or crumbled cheese of your choosing
- fresh herbs, chopped, for garnish
Rinse roe in cold water well. Dump the roe into a mixing bowl, sprinkle salt over and let sit for a minute.
Using a fork, whisk the roe until smooth and all the membranes are easily separated. Remove all the membranes using fork.
Add egg, pepper, tarragon, bread crumbs. Mix well, until it’s consistent and is about as thick as yoghurt, or waffle batter.
Melt half of the butter in a large skillet. Fold the batter out in a skillet and smooth over, forming a large pancake, about 1/2″ thick.
Reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook until firm enough to be turned (about 5 minutes). You can check it by lifting a portion of it with a spatula carefully and inspecting the color on the bottom. It should be thoroughly browned, but not burned (see photos).
Now flip the pie over using the following flip-and-slide technique: wet a large flat plate and place it carefully upside down on top of the skillet. Using two pot grabbers, press the skillet and the plate together firmly and carefully flip them upside down. The pie will now be on the plate, its cooked side up. Return the skillet to the stove. Melt the remaining piece of butter and slide the pie off the plate, raw side down, back into the skillet. Using a spatula, tuck the edges of the pie in neatly. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes, or until firm.
Turn off the heat, sprinkle cheese over, cover again and let sit for a few minutes, until cheese melts. Transfer onto a plate, sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs.
Serve hot with cucumber, olives, capers, tomatoes or a nice green salad.