Sevruga | Starry Sturgeon | Drakul | Usun Burun

In 2020, we couldn’t travel much. Yet, last year (finally, it is last!) happened to be pretty interesting for me in culinary adventures. For the first time in my life, I had a chance to cook and taste two sturgeon species — sevruga and sterlet. Both look unusual as a fish. Sevruga, though, looks very attractive to me. Its diamond-shaped scutes look like stars and thus another name — Starry Sturgeon. I think it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Both species from Sturgeon Aquafarms — sevruga and sterlet — are relatively lean. I tried multiple cooking methods to see which one is the best for my taste —  grilling, frying, smoking, boiling, and baking/roasting. The last one was the most awarding. I call it baking/roasting because of the oven, but it is cooked in moist heat. The fish is covered all the time (more like in a dutch oven), and it cooks in its own juice and steam, which is the best for it. The vegetables are arranged around it, share the same cooking method, and absorb the same flavors. This cooking method unlocks the best in this fish in terms of flavor and texture.

Sevruga
Sevruga
Sevruga
Sevruga

The Store and The Fishery

Marky’s Gourmet Store

Marky’s Gourmet Store gives us the advantages of buying a whole fish that was fast-frozen fresh. It can be safely stored and transported to any distance without losing its nutritional and taste qualities. Getting the whole fish allows us to use it for all kinds of recipes, including coking and serving it Tsar-style. On the other side, there are a few steps we need to follow to prep it for cooking. And I’d be lying to say they are easy for beginners.

First, sevruga needs to be thoroughly rinsed with boiling hot water. It helps to remove the slime coat (wear protective gloves at all times!) and loosen up scutes. Sevruga is partially covered with five lateral rows of scutes (aka zhoochki | жУчки) — diamond-shaped “scales” that need to be removed with a knife. The right direction is from tail to head, away from your body.

Like other members of subclass Chondrostei, sevruga is unique among bony fishes because their skeletons are almost entirely cartilaginous. Inside the skeleton, there is a notochord (aka viziga | визига). Being a strong connective tissue, it contracts during cooking and needs to be removed to prevent any fish deformations. It’s done by removing just the notochord (tricky!) or by cutting out the whole skeleton (that’s what I do).

Sturgeon Aquafarms

Marky’s sturgeon species come from Sturgeon Aquafarms (Bascom, Florida).

Sturgeon Aquafarms was founded in 2001 with the intent to protect and preserve endangered sturgeon species.

Why Sturgeon Aquafarms?

  • Sturgeon Aquafarms is the only farm in the United States housing Beluga, Sevruga and Sterlet sturgeon.
  • Sturgeon Aquafarms uses Floridan Aquifer water, the same water used as drinking water for Florida residents, to raise its fish.  
  • Sturgeon Aquafarms uses only natural feed, free of hormones, antibiotics and other pollutants, which ensures a high nutritional value and the highest quality meat and caviar.
  • Sturgeon Aquafarms team includes past members of the U.N., CITES and scientists from local and foreign universities who assist us in our re-population and reproductive efforts.

Roasted Sevruga | Tsar-Style

Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time1 hr 45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Eastern European
Keyword: fennel, fish, leeks, potato, roasted, sevruga, sturgeon
Servings: 6 portions
Calories: 160kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 each sevruga
  • 2 lb potatoes baby potatoes, assorted
  • 2 each fennel bulbs

for stuffing

  • 2 each leeks white part
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 0.5 bunch parsley Italian, flatleaf, fresh
  • 0.5 bunch cilantro fresh
  • 1 handful fennel greens fresh
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 0.5 tsp black pepper freshly ground

Instructions

  • Thaw the sevruga. To prepare the fish for cooking, boil a large pot of water. Prepare a deep baking dish with either the lid or a large piece of foil to cover and secure the baking dish. The steam needs to be trapped inside the baking dish during the cooking.
  • Prepare the stuffing. Wash and slice the white part of the leeks. Peel and slice fresh garlic cloves. Chop fennel greens and herbs. Melt butter in a skillet and saute leeks until soft and lightly caramelized. Add garlic, green fennel, and herbs, mix, season to your taste, turn off the heat. Let cool to room temperature.
  • Wear protective gloves. Place sevruga in a sink and rinse it with boiling-hot water and clean the slime with your hands moving them tail to head. Cut off the gills if they are still present. Cut off the skutes, carefully inspecting all 5 lateral raws (back, sides, and belly). Make two slits on both sides of the skeleton, deep enough to remove it. Rinse the fish for the last time, and it is ready to stuff.
  • Stuff sevruga's belly and secure the stuffing with toothpicks in the places where belly skutes were. On the back of the fish, make 0.5" deep incisions (to make the fish more flexible and easier to cut into portions when ready to serve) and place it in the baking dish.
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Wash baby potatoes and fennel. Spread potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish. Slice fennel bulbs 0.3" thick and arrange around the fish. Spray the fish and vegetables with avocado oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover with the lid, and bake for 1.5-2 hours. The inner temp should be around 190F-200F to completely gelatinize the connective tissues.
    Sevruga | Before Roasting
  • When ready, arrange thin lemon slices on top of the fish and sprinkle the whole dish with freshly chopped herbs. It is ready to serve!
    Roasted Sevruga | Tsar Style

Nutrition

Calories: 160kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 417mg | Potassium: 671mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 516IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 2mg
Roasted Sevruga | Tsar Style