A prehistoric survivor of the ice age, Sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in the world, some exceeding 2,000 pounds. Henry I of England declared it the “Royal Fish,” and King Edward II was so devoted to Sturgeon that he issued a decree that any Sturgeon caught must first be offered to the throne. But it's perhaps most famous for one feature in particular — its highly prized roe which is made into caviar. Looking a little like an aquatic dinosaur, Sturgeon may be one of the strangest looking fish, but the lean, firm meat has a wonderful flavour quite similar to swordfish. It can be grilled, sautéed, baked, barbecued, poached or fried and stands up to the boldest of preparations and is almost impossible to over cook.
The prehistoric looking Sturgeon
Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Aquarium
The word 'sturgeon' is derived from the German verb 'störer', which means 'to root around', and for obvious reasons. Most sturgeon are easily recognized by the diamond-shaped armor plating on their sides and by four barbels that hang near their tubular mouths which act as feelers in their search for food. They're also entirely boneless as their spine is made from cartilage.
Fresh sturgeon filets
Moderately high in fat content, Sturgeon has a mild, delicate flavour with lean flesh that is firm and meaty, similar in texture to chicken breast or veal. It takes well to marinades and dry rubs, like this delicious recipe for Indian Spice-Crusted Grilled Sturgeon. Coated in an aromatic mixture of coriander seeds, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon and fresh thyme, the filets are then sautéed quickly in a a little olive oil then roasted in the oven for 10-15 minutes. The rich succulent flesh turns white when cooked, becoming wonderfully crunchy on the surface and deliciously moist in the centre.
Seasoned with coriander seeds, cumin, black peppercorns,
cinnamon and fresh thyme
Spice Crusted Grilled Sturgeon
3/4lb sturgeon fillet, cut into two pieces
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp coriander seed
2 green cardamon pods, seeds removed and kept, pods discarded
5 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 bunch of rapini, trimmed and washed
fresh dill for garnish
Preheat oven to 450°F. Place the spices in a small food processor or spice grinder, and pulse until the mixture becomes a coarse powder, then pour onto a large plate. Brush the sturgeon filets in a little olive oil, then dredge the sturgeon, flesh side down, in the spices.
In a non-stick pan over a medium heat, add a little olive oil. When the oil is hot enough, place the sturgeon, spice side down and sear until the spices are golden, about 5 minutes. Flip the fish over, and place the pan into the oven. Turn the oven down to 350°F, and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, until the sturgeon is cooked all the way through.
While the sturgeon is cooking, steam the rapini over high heat until the leaves are wilted and the stalks are al dente, about 10 minutes. Once cooked, squeeze a little lemon juice over top and toss to combine.
To plate, place the rapini on a platter and top with sturgeon fillet, spice side up. Garnish with a little fresh dill and slices of fresh lemon.