Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The King of Freshwater Fishes
The King? Elvis the fish? Sturgeon. After realizing that I've never eaten sturgeon, and that there are (or were) stores DEVOTED to the fish, and after my husband spoke melodramatically about how big and plentiful they once were, and how ugly they are, I decided to find out for myself.
Obviously I will be making a pilgrimage to Murrays Sturgeon Shop, which will stretch this topic into two posts, which is useful since lately I haven't had much to say. It's way on the upper west side, which might as well be New Hampshire it takes that long to get there. Looking at their website I have some concerns. First, it seems that when they named their store for sturgeon, what they really meant to say was "caviar." Second, their sturgeon comes from Canada, where, I suspect, their sturgeon is not farm raised, which is what is recommended for responsible fish eaters, which I try to be (thanks Danny for the link). Also, it's crazy spendy, but I guess it costs big bucks to eat a dinosaur.
Also way way way uptown is Barney Greengrass, the self-appointed "Sturgeon King." They appear to have a restaurant, so for the price of a small car I can have a plate of sturgeon from their appetizer menu. This does not mean it's an appetizer! It means it's an appetizing food. More information on appetizing, read here.
Caviar Russe, in midtown, at least calls a spade a spade and doesn't pretend like all the profit isn't in those little eggs. They do sell smoked sturgeon, at almost 1/2 to 1/3 less than Murray or Barney. But they are in midtown, so what do they know from smoked fish.
At Petrossian, near Carnegie Hall, they have the same fare but still a little less pricey than the uptown guys. I really love their leaping sturgeon caviar spoons. Valentine's Day I hear you calling.
As usual I will make a list of things I've learned about sturgeon. I love lists.
1. They are considered to be prehistoric looking, and in fact are prehistoric in origin, around since BEFORE dinosaurs.
2. They are HUGE, around 300 pounds. The beluga sturgeon can get up to 1500 pounds and live to be over 100.
3. They are only found in the northern hemisphere.
4. It is recommended that you only eat farmed sturgeon, due to their protected status.
5. Their eggs are caviar.
6. The beluga sturgeon is where the finest caviar comes from. It is not to be confused with the beluga whale (which I once got to touch at Sea World in a private viewing when I had a much luckier job.)
This is the beluga whale I got to touch (but that's not me touching it). See how it looks nothing like a sturgeon.
6. They have no teeth.
7. Atlantic sturgeon are found in the Hudson River and have been known to reach over 200 pounds. They were nicknamed "Albany Beef." They are protected and nobody is allowed to fish for them.
8. The logo of the Hudson River estuary is the Atlantic sturgeon.
9. The shortnose sturgeon also is found in the Hudson River estuary, and it is officially endangered.
10. About 900 adult Atlantic sturgeon spawn each year in the Hudson, but since they are so long lived, and since they don't spawn every year, and since they don't spawn til they are late teenagers, nobody really knows how many there are.
11. 100 years ago fishermen were catching 6 million sturgeon a year. This is why there are so few of them left. Kind of like the buffalo.