Briarcliff's Inspired Chef Goes Downton Abbey

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Hillary Messer shows her caviar pie. Photo Credit: Laura Mogil

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. -- Caviar …The very word inspires thoughts of five-star dining, indulgent extravagance, and mega dollar signs.

But have no fear, the Inspired Chef has tracked down a caviar-inspired recipe that’s good enough to serve with champagne and won’t break the bank.

My dear friend Hillary Messer first introduced our circle of friends to caviar pie – made by one of our favorite local caterers, Matt Miller – at a New Year’s Eve party almost a decade ago.

Featuring decadent layers of egg salad, minced onion, sour cream/cream cheese, and caviar, it was the perfect combination of sweet and savory, creamy and crunchy, and looked so elegant with its striated layers of pale yellow, creamy white and shimmering black.

An instant hit, it was quickly devoured with not a morsel of caviar left over. The only problem, and sorry about this Matt, was that this posh pie came with a rather lavish price tag.  So Hillary decided she would do some research and learn how to make the caviar pie herself. Over the years, she’s tried out a multitude of recipes and perfected her own version, which she’s been kind enough to share with us here. 

Whether you’re Downton Abbey or down on your luck, the one kitchen essential you’re going to need to either own, borrow or splurge for is a springform pan if you want your caviar pie to shine like the crown jewel that it deserves to be.

According to Hillary, “I’ve tried several different sizes of springform pans. The pie was too thick and hard to get through all the layers when I used a 6 inch, and was spread too thin when I used a 9 inch. Like Goldilocks, the 8 inch was just right.”

The first layer of the recipe is pretty easy – just mix the hardboiled eggs with mayonnaise. The next layer, the minced onion, is a tad more complicated. “The key is let the minced onion drain on top of paper towels for 30 minutes, then squeeze out the extra moisture before mixing with the other ingredients,” she explains.  This is followed by the sour cream and cream cheese combo layer, which can be added in dollops over the minced onion.

And now for the pièce de résistance – the caviar. According to Hillary, “I use four to five two-ounce jars for an 8 inch pan.” She says, “If you look for the black lumpfish in advance of major holidays you can frequently get them on sale in the supermarket for around $5. If you don't they run about $7.” Hardly a king’s ransom!

A few other caviar tips:

  • Don't put the caviar on the pie in advance; you can do it a bit before serving or bringing to someone’s house.
  • Gently rinse caviar. Don't over rinse or all the salty flavor will be gone.
  • Do dab with a paper towel or spread on paper towel to dry the caviar. It will drip down the sides and ruin the look of your pie if you leave it too wet.
  • One last note, don't release the pie from the springform pan until you arrive at your destination; it is very difficult to transport in tact if you do. Cheers and Cheerio!


CAVIAR PIE
From the kitchen of Hillary Messer

3/4 cup minced onion, spread on paper towel to drain, about 30 minutes
6 hard boiled eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sour cream
4 - 5 two-ounce jars black lumpfish caviar, supermarket brand is fine

Lightly butter bottom of 8" springform pan. Chop eggs and mix with mayonnaise. Spread as first layer in pan. Then sprinkle onions over the egg layer.  Beat cream cheese and sour cream together until smooth. Drop by tablespoons onto onion layer and gently spread to cover. Chill three hours or over night. Just before serving gently rinse caviar and drain in strainer, then blot with paper towel. Spread evenly on top of cream cheese layer. Carefully pop out of springform pan and serve with crackers.

Laura Joseph Mogil is a freelance writer and publicist residing in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. You can read her blog at www.inspiredchef.net.

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