THE RUSSIAN FOOD NETWORK

Project form

Please fill out the form below, print it, and turn it in, in hard copy, on the due date you selected on the signed up sheet.  The Russian Food Network Event as a follow up to your Russian cooking experience will take place on December 2 during class time, in the Whitman Commons.  Please duplicate your recipe and bring it in for the event.

Recipe: Mushroom caviar (gribnaya ikra)

This version of “caviar,” made with finely chopped mushrooms and sour cream, is hardly inferior to the real thing. Thrifty cooks used to use leftover mushroom trimmings to make this dish, but it tastes even better with fresh caps and stems. 

  • 3 large scallions (including green tops), finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • ¾ pound mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped
  • Juice of half a large lemon
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh dill (or 1 tablespoon dried dill)
  • Parsley
  • Tomato slices

Briefly sauté the scallions in the butter. Add the mushrooms and lemon juice. Season to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream and dill. Check for seasoning. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

            Serve the “caviar” at room temperature, garnished with parsley and tomato slices

            Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Note: Make sure not to chop the mushrooms and scallions too finely, or you will end up with a sauce instead of “caviar.” 

A synopsis of your research on the recipe and the area where the recipe originated: 

Mushroom caviar (gribnaya ikra) comes from western Russia, also known as European Russia or Central Russia. Western Russia holds about 78% of Russia’s population, as well as two of its major cities; St. Petersburg and Moscow. Russians commonly make this recipe with pickled wild mushrooms, although fresh wild or store-bought mushrooms may be used. Although the type of mushroom does not matter, some recipes swear by porcino, portobello, or button mushrooms. There are also many variations to the dairy product used in the recipe; some call for cheese curd and cream cheese, others for mayonnaise, and others still, including this one, for sour cream.

Your description of the experience of preparing and the tasting the recipe (any ingredients you needed to substitute, any changes you made to the recipe… does it remind you of something you tasted before?  What would you serve to accompany it? Etc. 

Before preparing the mushroom caviar, I requested assistance from my friend who lives in on-campus apartments, because she has a kitchen, utensils, and a spice cabinet. However, as she is a vegan, I replaced the dairy-based products with vegan alternatives. I replaced butter with margarine, and sour cream with a non-dairy sour cream alternative, in one-to-one ratios.

My grocery store did not have “large” scallions, so I use six medium scallions. Also, due to misreading directions, I mistakenly tossed out the greens of the scallions, although the recipe called for them.

 Although this recipe is very short, the majority of my time preparing this dish was chopping the vegetables. After chopping, however, the rest of the preparation was very simple, and I experienced no problems. 

The main flavor of the dish came from the dill and sour cream. It reminded me of a sort of dip, perhaps. I thought more cayenne pepper could have been added, though the dish isn’t intended to be very spicy. I served the caviar on slices of bread and snack crackers. Some recipes call for toast points or bread squares. I preferred the snack crackers.

Like a wine recommendation to accompany a dish, make a recommendation of a reading from Russian literature that would accompany the making or the tasting of the dish you prepared.  Perhaps the reading would suit the mood of the dish, its spiciness or its sweetness… perhaps there was a mention of one of the ingredients or the dish itself in the reading… etc.  You may select from the stories read or presented in class, or some other Russian work with which you are familiar.

With mushroom caviar, I suggest reading The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol. In the story, Akaky Akakievich is a low-ranking, simple, poor, and arguably-ugly clerk who wears an old, ragged, patchy overcoat to work every day. He is kind and innocent, but, because of his looks and low rank, he is looked down upon. However, once he purchases a brand new, fashionable overcoat from the local tailor, his co-workers treat him differently; he is praised and complimented, simply because his co-workers perceive him as being of a higher rank. 

Mushroom caviar is the Akaky Akakievich of the food world. It is very cheap and inexpensive, yet delicious. Although it is simply mushrooms, onion, and sour cream, it is dressed in the “caviar” overcoat, and so may be perceived as a rich and luxurious food, when, in fact, it is not.