Shad roe is our new culinary finding for spring, and what a find it is!
This is a shad. It's bony.
(photo: Carina Salvi)
This is its roe:
And here's what it looks like pan-seared and served with cilantro-lime butter:
I had read somewhere recently that shad roe tasted a bit like liver, and was emblematic of spring in some parts of the U.S. Not sure which species we ate, but I'm guessing it was the American shad, A. sapidissima. These poor fish live their happy lives in the ocean, and each spring make the perilous journey up rivers to spawn. That's when hungry eaters like us snatch them from their waterways, tear out their roe and gobble it up like candy.
Apparently shad and shad roe used to be food for the poor. But as with many foods (lobster, oxtails), shad roe has become a delicacy and is now quite costly.
Cooking it was an interesting experience; some recipes encouraged poaching it before frying, and others just recommend wiping it down and plopping it in a pan with butter. Since T and I were ravenous and not fans of overly complicated cooking, we opted for doing the latter. A recipe from Gourmet advised us to fry it lightly, and warned that shad roe was fickle so we shouldn't leave the stove lest it become overdone. So we stood there religiously by the fire, trying to restrain each other from poking and prodding the mushy bloody sacs. The heat must've been too high, for the sac membrane split open with a sharp pop and a few searing hot stray eggs landed on our faces and arms. The shad's revenge for interfering with its offspring, I guess.
The taste was slightly liver-y - savory and meaty without any hint of fishiness. The texture was delicate, but still hearty since the outsides were seared to a nice crispy brown finish. We added butter with lime and cilantro so the acid would cut through the richness of the butter and roe.
A fine meal for a weeknight, and our tribute to welcoming in the spring season!