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What is bottarga?

Often called the poor man's caviar, bottarga (or botargo) is the Italian word for a dense cured fish roe made from tuna, gray mullet or swordfish.

To make bottarga, the roe pouch of the fish is massaged until its air pockets disappear. It is then dried and cured in sea salt, hardening into a dense tablet after a few weeks. The bottarga is then cut into logs and coated in beeswax, resembling a petrified sausage, a technique which has been traced back to the Phoenicians.

Bottarga has a highly salty taste that can be compared to dried anchovies, but with a silkier texture. It keeps well stored in the refrigerator and a little goes a long way. Often grated sparingly in the manner of truffles over an omelette or pasta, bottarga can also be cut into very small wedges, sprinkled with lemon juice and served as an appetizer.

Popular in Sicily and Sardinia, bottarga can be found throughout the Mediterranean, under the name of poutargue or boutargue in France or botarga in Spain. In Greece, avgotaraho is slightly smoked and made in summer to be preserved for Lent.

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