Mark Zaslavsky and Mark Gelman have waited nine years to harvest sturgeon raised in the spring waters of Zephyrhills just north of Tallahassee. The project was launched to produce caviar and help repopulate the endangered fish. Whole, cleaned Sevruga (firm and lean) and Sterlet (soft and slightly sweet) sturgeon are now available frozen in the Russian market at Marky’s (call a day ahead to have them thawed). Petit Rouge French Bistro in North Miami also features sturgeon specials.
Sturgeon are living fossils resembling small, bony-plated sharks that date back 120 million years. The fish is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, has a delicate, meaty taste and is as tender as veal if refrigerated a few days before cooking.
To prepare the fish, cut off the fins and top plates (called scutes) with a sharp knife. Chop off the head and cut away the skin and dark part (fascia) under it and fillet, removing any the reddish fat lines. The meat can be smoked, boiled, barbecued, sautéed or lightly breaded and deep-fried. Add to chowders and soups, tuck into tacos or serve strips chilled with cocktail sauce. Poached sturgeon is delicious in sour cherry sauce with capers.
Petite Rouge chef-owner Neal Cooper learned about the briny beast through frequent customer Zaslavsky, and serves weekend sturgeon specials. Dishes include butter-poached pearl couscous with squid ink (it resembles Beluga caviar) served over sturgeon and lobster chunks. Fillets are wrapped in puff pastry with spinach in mustard dill sauce or potato-crusted and pooled in truffle-cabernet glace. Whole Sterlet are roasted with cherry tomatoes and served with basil beurre blanc.
The fish may be ancient, but it is a welcome newcomer to Miami.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami food writer and personal chef who blogs at FoodIndiaCook.com.