Pressed caviar—or payusnaya in Russian—is a smooth, dense, nicely salty paste made from the fish eggs that break during the packing of traditional caviar. Once quite common in France, it was featured at New York City’s famed Le Pavillon restaurant, where I worked in the late 1950s. In the past 20 years, however, pressed caviar has almost disappeared from the market. In an attempt to bring it back, I recently partnered with the California Caviar Company to create a new pressed sturgeon caviar. I hope my recipes will inspire people to try it.
Unlike traditional caviar, which is best served on its own, pressed caviar is versatile and most delicious when incorporated into dishes. A cook can place a small amount between sheets of plastic wrap, roll it out thinly and cut out any shape. Formed into a disk or strip, pressed caviar can turn a roasted fingerling potato into a simple canapé or transform an omelet into a luxe breakfast. It’s thick enough to dice and add to a tangy salmon tartare. Or, frozen and grated, it can become an exceptional garnish for a creamy shrimp pasta with mushrooms.
Jacques Pépin’s Payusnaya pressed caviar is available from the California Caviar Company ($48 per oz; californiacaviar.com).