Odds are, in the event you’re not from the Mid-Atlantic, you’ve by no means heard of fried shad roe. Which, truthfully, is a rattling disgrace.
Shad are a sort of river herring, an anadromous fish that migrate from saltwater up rivers to spawn in freshwater. Every spring, shad will make their approach a whole bunch of miles upriver to spawn. These “poor man’s tarpon” are acrobatic and a blast to catch on mild sort out. Extra importantly, they’re tremendous tasty. The flesh is delicate, however it is among the boniest fish on the market. The roe (fish eggs) is prized as an ephemeral ingredient—the definition of hyper-local and seasonal components. It is one thing that everybody ought to attempt if they’ve the prospect.
Fish roe, like most eggs, have an extremely wealthy taste. Shad roe sacs comprise a whole bunch of 1000’s of tiny unfertilized eggs that vary in coloration from a blush pink to a crimson-orange. They’ve a briney-eggy taste and distinct textural ‘pop’ to them. These roe sacs are historically pan-fried with bacon fats to crisp up the outside and depart an underdone heart. That is normally served with eggs, toast, or grits—something that can steadiness out the richness of the roe.
I’ve experimented with cooking shad roe in quite a few methods, and have discovered that on this case, the basic preparation wants no enchancment. Shad roe ought to be frivolously dusted with flour, cornmeal, or each, after which pan-fried in bacon fats. The hot button is to not overcook it, and it solely takes a minute or two to get a pleasant crispy exterior. Persevering with to cook dinner it after that dries out the roe and modifications the feel significantly. You desire a tender, virtually creamy inside, not a dried-out, crumbly one.
The bacon fats provides a little bit of smokey taste that pairs with the roe completely, whereas additionally imparting a little bit of salt. As for what to serve it with, creamy southern grits are my favourite. They take in the surplus fats and match the shad roe texturally. You actually don’t want a lot else to spherical out this meal, however if you wish to, a barely acidic sauce pairs very nicely. Pesto, chimichurri, or picatta are all stable additions. I prefer to serve mine with lightly sauteed ramps with a contact of lemon.
As for sourcing the shad roe, you wish to get the freshest ones you will get. Frozen shad roe is simply not the identical. Yow will discover it at seafood markets within the spring, or go catch some shad your self. You’ll be able to inform which shad have roe by gently squeezing the stomach. Male shad could have a white substance (milt) that comes out of their urogenital orifice, whereas feminine roe-bearing shad will present orange-reddish eggs.
Earlier than you go fishing, verify your native laws on the legality of maintaining shad. On the East Coast, the place shad are native, the laws can fluctuate dramatically by locality. In some areas, it’s unlawful to maintain American shad, however authorized to maintain Hickory shad (a barely smaller, equally tasty fish). On the West Coast, the place shad have been launched, there are looser laws.
Additionally, the meat of the shad is extraordinarily tasty, so don’t waste it. They’re stuffed with bones, which makes them tough to eat, however it’s one of many extra delicate and flavorful fish on the market.