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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Boutargue or Poutargue – Mediterranean Caviar? Boutargue on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman


Boutargue is the salted and dried roe of the gray mullet and a Provençal delicacy which some compare to caviar though apart from both being fish eggs, its taste is very different.  Boutargue has a concentrated flavor, and you can taste the brine with a texture that is soft but can just be felt on your teeth.  Similarly prepared is Boutargue de Thon which is made with roe from the bluefin tuna.

Poutargue is boutargue in the Provencal dialect.

Traditionally boutargue is made in the shape that came when it was taken from the fish, and then it is salted and dried and covered in beeswax; however, now you may see boutargue formed differently and vacuumed packed. As boutargue’s fame has spread among the visitors to France so has the way it is served, and that may add a glass of champagne, just like 24-carat caviar.  
Boutargue on French menus:

Asperge Verte Rôtie, Poutargue, et Citron Confit  - Roasted green asparagus, boutargue and lemon confit.

Carpaccio d'Artichauts et Poutargue, Sauce Citron – A Carpaccio of artichokes prepared with boutargue and served in a lemon sauce.
Grated boutargue
Pâtes Froides en Salade Poutargue, Persil Plat –  Boutargue salad served with cold pasta and flavored with flat parsley. French chefs give lots of thought to the herbs they use, and flat parsley has more oil and consequently more flavor than curly parsley.

Spaghetti Huile d'Olive Extra Verge, Ail et Lamelles de Boutargue de Thon - Spaghetti served with virgin olive oil and flavored with garlic and thin slices of bluetuna boutargue.
Tagliatelle with bluefin tuna boutargue

Salade de Roquette au  Crévettes et Boutargue de Mulet – A rocket salad served with shrimps and gray mullet boutargue.
In a charcuterie-traiteur, a French delicatessen, botargue may also be called Caviar Martégal, Caviar de Martigues or Caviar de la Méditerranée. It may be offered vacuum packed, with or without the traditional wax or grated.
The town of Martigues in Provence

The center for boutargue is the beautiful coastal town and fishing port of. Martigues in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence, Alpes du Sud.  Martigues is just 41 km (26 miles) from the port city of Marseilles and equidistant from the eastern border of the Camargue.  Martigues has canals that allow it to claim the name of the Venice of Provence and along with its Mediterranean sea setting, it also borders the Étang de Berre lagoon.


Martigues has an English language website, just click on the British flag:
All the Mediterranean countries argue about who first made this type of salted and dried roe famous.  The greatest influence on French boutargue recipes must go to the Italians, but the Italians owe a debt to the ancient Greeks and probably to the ancient Egyptians
Boutargue in the languages of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan - botarga), (Dutch -bottarga), (German - bottarga), (Italian - bottarga), (Spanish -botarga).
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
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