If anyone has a sensitive stomach, or stringent principles, this post may not be to taste. Season as desired or pass it on to a less finicky foodie neighbor, ‘as you like it’.
Spring is a season of beginnings.
The land awakes, stretches a bit, and cries out loud. Flowers cover the grassy hills in velvet carpets of technicolor.The sky wears its bluest blue, and brand new leaves shoot forth from dormant hiding places. Living things rejoice and congregate, freed from the barriers of winter, and then multiply.
I must now broach a bony subject. After reading a great post by my friend Nancie McDermott on shad roe, I eagerly jumped back into a shad-habit of spring consumption. Also worth noting is her subsequent post on The Lee Brothers Dinner. Their Cookbook contains a great treatment of Shad as well and a few key tidbits on what to do with them.
American Shad, or Alosa sapidissima, is a fish of the east coast which historically has spawned in every accessible river and tributary from Canada to Florida. (see Maryland Dept of Natural Resources link enclosed) Native Americans, or American Indians, were therefore first known to be shad fishermen as a group in the United States. It is now one of the most popular indigenous fish, in its season.They are the largest in the herring family and the most abundant anadramous fish on the east coast. The females may travel up to 1200 miles during the freshwater spawning process. The juvenile’s larval development actually would not occur in saltwater. Interestingly enough, mature shad actually return to the rivers of their birth for this process, and could therefore be called “river-specific”.
They are also incredibly delicious! It may be true that tuna is referred to as seafood ‘chicken’. But the flesh of shad is very meaty, light, and flavorful. Frankly, it is even good right out of the fridge cold…remind one of anything? With all this loveliness to offer, there cannot possibly be any downside, can there? Well… there may be a slight challenge. The average American shad contains anywhere from 750-1000 bones! That is a very thoughtful dinner, indeed!
…And think I did. I first tried a recipe I’d used previously which dissolved the bones… I thought I remembered, I reckon, maybe. Slow baking with all my might, those multitudinous ‘thorns in the flesh’ stayed put and I racked my bean trying to recall what I did differently the last time. Apparently, after much research and sourcing of available advice on the issue, the only way to truly be rid of the ‘interruptions’ is to find one’s very own bonafide shad fillet person and care for them dutifully.
Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time eating it, as well as the roes. But as for the prickly situation I encountered, I contacted Nancie to get her thoughts on the subject. We agreed that it was well worth the effort regardless, and she suggested baking it covered with rock salt, which was also delicious.
Giving it another go, I got permission from the gents at my local seafood market to watch them fillet a few. The experience was eye-opening. Really, because had I blinked, I would have missed it. They stripped it down to fillets in an instant, but this only separated the shad from its primary back bone. There were still several rows of secondary bones to contend with, which I did.
My preferred experience is now to buy it whole, scale it, and separate the roes from their mommy themselves. (Sorry kids!) This keeps my roes intact for further research purposes!
|“Double Shad Delight” with the brine from about.com recipe,
then slow- baked with broth or water to braise, and bay leaf.