Shad Roe

Shad Roe, UncookedI love shad roe.

It's a very seasonal thing, appearing briefly when the shadbush and forsythia are in bloom, and, in these parts, around Opening Day. Spring is here, with tempestuous weather turning mild and brown fields turning green, fresh Asparagus and Pea Greens and sun-kissed strawberries are not far behind.

Shad roe is not pretty. It looks like a pair of lungs. You can find lots of details with a quick web search; the important thing to know is that is is very seasonal, very regional, and usually very hard to find without a reliable fishmonger. 

It is also very delicate; a slip of the knife can spill the precious eggs and make it much more difficult to prepare and serve.

We found some, in one market by luck and in another by special order.  We served it with another delicacy in our Shad Roe and Halibut Cheeks dinner.

Shad Roe, CookedI suppose there are some clever chefs who could find some way to present it attractively, but my advice is to concentrate your efforts on the preparation and let the presentation follow as needed.

I always use the butter-poaching method in Jasper White's Cooking from New England. There may be a better recipe, but I do not expect to find it on this side of the Pearly Gates.  If you should find yourself burdened by a surfeit of shad roe, you might try experimenting with different preparations, including poaching in water or stock and pan-frying. Better yet, if you have a surplus of shad roe, just call me. Please.

Here's an article from the New York Times.

A Traditional Yankee Method

Shad Roe in Johnnycake MealOne of the more traditional methods of cooking shad roe is to dip in a whipped egg and then in seasoned flour or johnnycake meal. I did it that way for this breakfast, using Kenyon's Johhnycake Meal from Rhode Island.

The johnnycake meal added a nice mild flavor and texture. Some of the reading I had done indicated that it also helped to preserve against the egg sacs breaking, but this was my eighth or ninth time preparing shad roe and I haven't seen this to be a real risk.

In the end, I like Jasper White's melted butter version better, but you might prefer it this way.

A Lighter Shad Roe Breakfast

Shad Roe and EggThe research continues.

Shad Roe is already pretty high in cholesterol, and poaching it in butter or with bacon do not help the cardiac situation. So I poached it in Fino Sherry and it came out beautifully.

For this breakfast, I sliced it thin and pan-fried it with an egg. The slices held together beautifully, and they let me know when they were done when they started to pop in the pan.

Of course, I got the butter back into the equation and added an egg yolk for a bonus, but I did have a much smaller serving of the shad roe.

OK, so let's not put a little heart next to this and call it heart-friendly. But it is a way to get 4-6 servings from a single lobe, so you can file it under thift or convenience.

A Shad Roe Canape

shad roe for canapesI wanted to find a way to serve shad roe in small sample-size bits for those who are curious but not ready to commit to an entire lobe poached in butter. I think I have come up with a winner here.

The delicate, rich, nutty-fishy flavor of shad roe goes very nicely with a Fino Sherry.  I had plenty of Savory & James Fino sherry on hand, so I poached a pair of lobes in that.  The poaching preserved the flavor and the structural integrity of this physically delicate treat. After poaching and cooling, the lobes were easy to handle and could be sliced thinly as for a canape.

I tried some slices with chopped parsley, sea salt, and lemon juice for some and cider vinegar for others. I preferred the cider vinegar, but would add some minced red onion to it. I plan to try it with tarragon vinegar as well.

I think this could be served on crackers or on thin rounds of bread, either white or pumpernickel.

It was delicious with the Fino Sherry, but I want to try it on pumpernickel with Akvavit, too.

Shad Roe in Plymouth!

Plymouth, MA is not a big market center, and we don't often see the more exciting fare that you get in bigger markets like Portland and Boston. So I was very excited to get my hands on some gorgeous shad roe today down at Wood's Seafood, on the town wharf.

I got two pair, one of which became my lunch. The other will be the subject of some culinary R&D  on Sunday, so I have until then to think up something delicious to do with it.