I literally came up with this dish because a family friend gifted us Osetra caviar, and I did not want to squander it. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Osetra caviar is harvested from an Osetra sturgeon fish, and it is one of the most prized and expensive kinds of caviar, second to only Beluga. Naturally, when I am given something extremely expensive, I tend to shut down. It is a ton of pressure to make a good dish using an ingredient that is so prized and expensive. For me, anyways, I feel like there is a lot of pressure to make the producers of a highly valued product proud, and to not squander or waste the efforts and assets that they poured into said item by making a bad dish or disrespecting it. The last thing I want is for somebody to think I took something so valued, that people may or may not have died over, and squandering it. Typically, if I am given an ingredient like that, I try to do a little as I can do it. While it could be cool to do something like a caviar gel or foam, is that really how I want to treat something that is worth more than my paycheck? Definitely not. That would show so much disrespect and disregard to the caviar farmers, and I will not do that.
So you best believe I did extensive research on what usually pairs well with caviar in the making of this dish. I came up with a simple pairing of kohlrabi, caviar, and creme fraiche, after doing some research. I found out a lot of people pair caviar with potatoes, and from there, I got the idea to use kohlrabi. For those unfamiliar with kohlrabi, it is a German cabbage-like turnip that tastes like a raw potato. I figured, if it tastes like a potato at all, why not use it? On its own, it’s actually mildly sweet, like cooked down jicama. The leaves are a little bit more bitter, but also sweet in flavor too. So it made for a good pairing with caviar, which is salty. For the dish, we have pickled kohlrabi, which I shaved into little cornets to hold some caviar creme fraiche. I pair those with a chilled kohlrabi and creme fraiche dashi, a kohlrabi leaf and mint oil, and topped it off with a little more caviar to finish. I wanted the dish to be light, vibrant, delicate, and dainty, while the caviar preparation was kept simple as a way to showcase it and allow it to really be the crown jewel on this dish. I named it “Winter Glow”, as kohlrabi is in peak season in the winter, and I felt like the colors reminded me of the winter as well, with the white, black, and green.
For the pickled kohlrabi:
Half of one small kohlrabi, cut along the width, stems removed and peeled
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
juice from 2 lemons
1/2 cup water
Reserve the kohlrabi stems for the dashi, and the leaves for the oil. Shave the kohlrabi on the thinnest setting of a mandolin and toss with the salt. Add the remaining ingredients into a pot and bring to a simmer, making sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Place the kohlrabi into a deep container and pour the liquid over it. Allow that to refrigerate until completely cold.
For the kohlrabi dashi:
Half of one small kohlrabi, peeled and diced
reserved kohlrabi stems
1/2 gallon water
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
Bring the kohlrabi and half of the water to a simmer in a pot, cooking until the kohlrabi is fork-tender. Allow the kohlrabi to cool down in cold water so that it will not cook any further at that point. In another pot, bring the kombu, remaining water, and kohlrabi stems to a simmer in a pot. Once the color of the liquid reaches a near-amber color, turn off the heat and allow everything to steep for at least 10 minutes before straining out the kombu and stems. In a blender, combine the kohlrabi, dashi liquid, a pinch of salt, and creme fraiche into a smooth mixture. Pass through a cheese cloth-lined strainer to remove any fibers and solids. You want this to be a creamy soup-like texture with no fibrousness at all. Keep it chilled.
For the kohlrabi and mint oil:
Reserved kohlrabi leaves
10 mint leaves
1/4 cup neutral flavored oil
a pinch of salt
Blanch the kohlrabi and mint leaves in salt water for 10 seconds, then place into ice cold water until the leaves are just below room temperature. Place into a blender with the oil and salt and puree for at least 1 minute to guarantee that the solids are completely broken down. Pass through a cheese cloth-lined strainer to remove any additional solids.
For the caviar creme fraiche:
1 teaspoon Osetra creme fraiche
1/4 cup creme fraiche
Fold together the two ingredients and transfer into a piping bag.
Wrap the kohlrabi pickles to form the cones. Place three cones, filled with the creme fraiche, into them, on a plate. Garnish with the caviar and flowers. Swirl the dashi and the herb oil together.