Have you tried bottarga? The Italian delicacy of salted, cured fish roe, which gets shaved over pastas and crostini, lends a bright briny taste to anything it touches. But it doesn't come cheap. So when Jonathon Sawyer, chef of The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland, introduced us to his vegetarian version using just egg yolks, salt and vinegar, we had to test it out. The yolks take on the same briny quality as bottarga but with a vibrant yellow color.
This dish is a labor of love, where patience is key. It takes a week to make, but it's worth it. The long curing time ensures that the yolks dry out enough so they can be grated and last safely at room temperature for a month, giving you ample time to use them in a range of dishes.
Our smoking technique is a simple hack for cold smoking, where you impart a smoky flavor without adding any heat to cook the product. Be sure that the yolks are uncovered and the rack is above the pan so the smoke simply rises through the grates and coats the yolks. And just make sure you have a window open. Once matured, these yolks are great grated over pastas, shaved over crostini or crumbled over salads.
To learn more, read "Jonathon Sawyer's Secret Weapon."
Smoked Egg Yolk Bottarga
Recipe adapted from Jonathon Sawyer, The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland, OH
Yield: 6 cured egg yolks
Prep Time: 1 week
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 week and 15 minutes
2 cups kosher salt (preferably Diamond Crystal brand), divided
6 egg yolks
½ cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 cup wood chips (preferably oak)
1. In an 8-inch square baking dish, sprinkle 1 cup of the kosher salt. Make 6 divots in the salt, each 2 inches apart, then place one egg yolk in each divot. Sprinkle the remaining cup of salt on top of the eggs, covering them completely. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 2 days.
2. After curing, remove the egg yolks from the salt and rinse with apple cider vinegar. Place the yolks on a small wire rack set over a baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for another 2 days, flipping the yolks after 1 day.
3. After drying, remove the tray of yolks from the refrigerator. Line a 12-inch cast-iron pan with tinfoil and place the wood chips over top. Heat the pan over medium heat until smoking heavily, 2 to 3 minutes. Place the wire rack with the yolks, uncovered, over the pan to smoke the yolks without cooking them, about 10 minutes.
4. Return the tray of yolks to the baking sheet and cover with cheesecloth. Let sit at room temperature until matured, 3 days more.
5. Grate the yolks as needed, keeping the rest in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month.