Shad Roe with Lemon Gremolata
Shad roe is one of those seasonal indicators letting you know spring is here.
Enjoying shad roe is a seasonal treat like fresh morel mushrooms and ramps. Shad roe has a delicate nature that doesn’t lend itself well to freezing so it will have the best texture when cooked from fresh. This is why it is not available all year round. But that is ok. The short window available to enjoy the roe makes this delicacy all the more special.
What is it?
Roe means eggs. Specifically, fish eggs that are contained in a membrane. So shad roe means the eggs of the shad fish. The flesh of the shad is highly prized among those lucky enough to be able to taste the fish. See, shad is a very boney fish. Their bones don’t lay straight or in lines like other fish. This unconventional twist of needles make the cleaning and prep of shad a pain so restaurants typically don’t serve it. The roe on the other hand is somewhat of a different story. While it isn’t the most popular of seafood choices, among those that had tried it, it is highly prized.
The flavor of the roe is sort of briny. This brinyness lends itself to that of an oyster almost. At least that is what I thought at first taste. Compliment the richness of the roe with bright hints of citrus and earthy jabs of flavorful greens. Bacon fat and butter are your usual suspects when sautéing the egg sacs. Don’t be too aggressive with the heat though. Too much heat and the membrane will split. Low and slow is the key to success here. Patience and a bit of wine.
There is a fishmonger I discovered in my area that brings fresh seafood inland that is caught right off the coast of the Carolinas. I get their fish list in my email every Wednesday. This week I opened the email and knew immediately what I was going to buy. See, prior to this post I had never had the chance to try shad roe. Not that I really sought it out, mind you. It was one of those things I would see on a popular cooking or travel show and would always tell myself that I was going to try it at some point. This week was that point. I did luck out though as I was able to grab the last pack the monger had left for the day.
- One set of Shad Roe lobes
- Good quality thick cut bacon
- Nice crusty French baguette
- Flavorful and pretty greens like rocket and red oak
- AP flour
- The gremolata (ingredients and pic to follow)
When cooking there is a dance that is performed. A dance that is all about timing. If your dance steps are out of time with the dish, you lose the flow and grace of the dish.
The first steps of preparing the Shad Roe with Lemon Gremolata is to cut the bacon into strips and set into a just warming pan set over medium heat. We don’t want to cook the bacon too quick as we are trying to render as much of the fat out of the bacon as possible. While the bacon is gently rendering away, slice the baguette on a bias to form crostini. Butter and season the crostini and place in a preheated 350° oven until they are nice and toasty, but not completely crisp. You want to retain a bit of chewiness to the bread.
Right around the time the crostini and nice and toasty, the bacon should be rendered and crisping up. Be careful to not overcook the bacon as it will become bitter and overshadow the delicate flavor of the roe. Also, you need to reserve the bacon fat for sautéing the roe.
At this point the bacon should be out of the pan and draining on a plate with paper towel, drippings in a small cup. As well the crostini should be out of the oven and waiting in the wings.
Take the pan that you rendered the bacon in and with just warm water and maybe a paper towel, scrub the bacon shrapnel out of the pan. If any of this is left it will blacken and bitter and ruin the roe. It will also cause the roe to stick to the pan and burst. You don’t want to use soap though as the soap will release the non stick seasoning of the fat. We need all the non stick affects we can get.
Place the de-shrapneled pan back on medium to medium low burner and add the bacon drippings and some butter. The bacon drippings will have tiny bits of bacon that have settled to the bottom of the bowl. Leave those in the bowl as they could potential overcook and bitter the dish as well as cause a “burnt dirty” look to the roe.
Pan back on with bacon drippings and butter. Time to carefully flour the roe, in seasoned flour of course.
Once floured, gently place in the pan and sauté, turning just a few times. Due to the delicate nature of the roe sacs you don’t want the heat to be too aggressive. Low and slow, so to speak. As I was sautéing my roe and half covered the pan. This way some of the heat could be retained, but also allow the steam to escape so I did not lose any crispiness and the roe turn soft and soggy. About half way through cooking the roe I added a couple sliced of lemon for added flavor.
While the roe is cooking prepare the lemon gremolata.
- Lemon zest
- Fresh garlic
- Flat leaf parsley
With a microplane, zest the lemon and grate the garlic.
With a knife, mince the lemon zest, grated garlic and parsley together until nice and minced. Reserve for plating.
Now that the gremolata is done and waiting, prepare the greens. Chop them slightly so they are small enough to not frustrate the person eating the dish (I can’t stand stems and stuff poking all over the place) but not so small they lose their character. Place the prepared greens in a bowl with some salt and pepper, a bit of olive oil and the crisp bacon.
By now the crostini, greens and gremolata are done and waiting and the roe should just be about done. You’re looking for nice and golden brown crust and firm but not rock hard lobes.
Time to bring all these dance steps together. Your style will determine where you place your steps, but I went a bit conventional. A nice arrangement of crostini, toss the greens and place a bit on the base of the crostini. Next a slice of the roe, more greens, another slice of roe and some of the lemon slices. I sliced each lobe into three. This will give you three portions per set of roe. To finish I added some olive oil to the gremolata to drizzle over the roe and plate. Finally a few more bacon bits left to fall where they pleased.
This was a fun adventure for me and one that has secured my place in the cult of shad roe lovers. Try as I might to bring my family along, it was only my oldest that even dared step down the path. I guess some people just can’t get past the thought of eating certain things. But again, this was more of a personal journey for me and one I wanted to share with you. Love, learn and eat!
- 1 set Shad Roe
- 4-5 oz Bacon
- 1 cup AP Flour
- 1 bunch Greens rocket, red oak, frisee
- 1/3-1/2 Baguette sliced on bias
- 4 tbsp Butter or more 2 for the bread and 2 for the roe
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil for the greens
- TT Salt and Pepper
- 1 ea Zest of the Lemon a few slices for the roe
- 1 ea Clove Fresh Garlic grated
- 2 tbsp Flat Leaf Parsley
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil for final plating
Zest the lemon and grate the garlic.
Mince all three together and set aside. Can be made one day ahead
Begin by rendering bacon in a medium pan.
While bacon is rendering, slice baguette, butter and season. Bake in preheated 350° oven until crisp and still chewy. Remove from oven and set aside until plating.
Once bacon has rendered and begun to crisp, remove dripping and bacon from pan separately, setting both aside and scrub bacon shrapnel from pan with water.
Return clean pan to burner adding clarified bacon drippings and butter. Gently add roe and sauté until golden brown and firm to touch. Add a few slices of lemon to roe about half way through for added flavor.
While roe is cooking, prepare greens, placing in bowl with olive oil, bacon and salt and pepper. Set aside for plating.
Once gremolata, crostini and salad or done and set aside and roe is nice and brown and firm to touch, bring all together.
Arrange crostini on plate, add a piece or roe, some more greens, another piece of roe as well as some slices of lemon.
Add some olive oil to the lemon gremolata and drizzle over roe and plate.
Finish with a few bits of bacon