There are two ways to obtain mullet roe: Either ask your fishmonger to set it aside when he or she guts your fresh mullet for you, or shell out the bucks for bottarga, a hunk of roe that’s been salted and dried until it’s hard and ready for grating over pasta. Many websites sell bottarga, but we’re partial, of course, to Cortez Bottarga, the homegrown variety available at wearebottarga.com.
Shaped like a thin tongue, with either a dull yellow color or a deep amber, depending on how long it’s been aged, a hunk of mullet roe doesn’t look like much, but it’s prized the world over for the titanic flavor it imparts to a dish. The fresh stuff holds a pâté-like appeal for mullet connoisseurs, while the dried variety will add a touch of the deep to even the simplest dishes.
If you’ve got fresh roe, consider salting it and wrapping it in foil and placing it in the smoker with your mullet filets, or you can craft your own DIY bottarga by repeatedly salting it and leaving it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for several days, turning it occasionally and letting the liquid drain into a bowl below. It takes weeks to achieve real bottarga, but this softer variety still tastes great on a hot bowl of spaghettini tossed with sautéed onions, butter, a bit of grated lemon zest and a pinch of finely chopped parsley.