There’s a common thread of high brow–meets–low brow at Evanston’s The Barn, the unabashedly meaty follow-up to Found Kitchen & Social House from Amy Morton and chef Nicole Pederson. With its cement floors, chicken pot pie and family recipe lasagna, not to mention the fact that it’s housed in a literal barn, you could be forgiven for viewing this cozy hideaway as a humble nook for comfort food. But then come the burly steaks, bison Bolognese and habit-forming butterball potatoes enriched with bone marrow butter. Clearly, opulence has a place here too, and no dish exemplifies this notion better than Pederson’s caviar sandwich.
The starter was inspired by Grand Central Station’s oyster bar in New York City, where Pederson recalls an open-faced white bread “sandwich” with caviar and crème fraîche. For The Barn, the chef wanted to showcase a specific American caviar she’d become enamored with at Found. There, she uses wild American caviars like hackleback, paddlefish and bowfin. “Bowfin is a fish with caviar that’s very similar to sturgeon,” says Pederson. “I can’t believe how delicious it is, considering how affordably priced it is. It’s still so buttery with so much depth of flavor. We thought we needed to use this in a big way.”
Using a honeyed pain de mie from Hewn Bakery in Evanston, Pederson smears one ounce of bowfin caviar with a hard-boiled egg and crème fraîche. “It’s just such an approachable way to present caviar,” she says.
To boot, not only is the caviar affordable and rich, but it’s a boon for local industries as well. “With caviar, you get this idea of the Baltic Sea and Russia, but this is actually from Kentucky or Illinois; all these different tributaries of these larger rivers where they find these large fish,” she says. “It’s become this really great job-growing movement in the middle of the country.”
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