Chef Ralph Bello was on the hunt for bottarga, or cured fish roe, a traditional, Italian, cured fish roe often used in Sicilian and Sardinian cuisine. He was looking to punch up the specials menu at Il Barilotto in Fishkill, but bottarga is somewhat hard to find in the United States, and even when it can be located, customers usually pay an exorbitant price.
Ever the experimenter, Bello decided to make it himself, albeit substituting shad roe for tuna, which is used in Sicily. After curing with a coating of salt and pepper for a month in the fridge, the roe is grated or sliced and used as a garnish, adding an entirely new funk and flavor to entrées.
House-made bottarga is but one of Bello’s projects. He has made swordfish pancetta from a cut of the fish that would otherwise be wasted; tuna ham, whose three-month cure results in a black log that resembles roast beef (perfect for carpaccio); and pastrami-cured salmon belly, which he served on crostini with horseradish spread and capers, a play on bagels with lox.
And while Il Barilotto was closed at press time due to the coronavirus pandemic, you can start a little side project for yourself using Bello’s recipe for pastrami-cured salmon belly.
Courtesy of Chef Ralph Bello, Il Barilotto
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp pink peppercorns
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
6 bay leaves
2 salmon belly fillets
Mix salt and sugar together in a bowl.
Toast all spices in a pan, stirring frequently. Let cool and then lightly crush.
On a rimmed sheet pan, generously coat all sides of the salmon with the salt and sugar mixture, follwed by the toasted and crushed spices. Place in a well-ventilated fridge, and let cure for two days.
After two days, drain excess juices from the pan. Rinse off the salmon bellies and pat dry. Coat the salmon again, with a light dusting of kosher salt and black peppers. Set on top of a wire rack to allow for air flow, and let cure for
Rinse salt off of salmon bellies and pat dry. Using a sharp knife, slice the salmon in thin strips following the grain of the fish. Serve on crostini with horseradish spread and capers.