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Shad roe - who's tried it?

The shad are running here in South Carolina, and the Hominy Grill in Charleston has shad roe on its menu, a traditional rite of spring. Their version sautees the roe with bacon and serves it over grits. It sounds like just the kind of local, seasonal dish I love--yet I've never tried it!

It seems like shad roe is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of dish. Or maybe it's an acquired taste. Either way, most reports I've heard from first-time shad roe tasters have been lukewarm at best. Not exactly encouraging.

So, those who have tried it, what's your opinion of shad roe? I'm trying to psych myself up to try it, but I welcome both positive and negative opinions, the more descriptive the better!

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  1. The shad run up here later in the spring and I have tried them a couple of times. Sauteed is the way I've had it. The flavor is not hugely distinguishable to me but the texture is what drives it. Personally I didn't care for it much, but it is worth trying. I didn't think i would like foie gras but after a couple of tries I was hooked.

    1. I was a cook in a high-end joint back in the '70's we had smoked shad roe ( came in an oval can) just saut'eed it and hit it with a little sherry, I liked it, never seen it since. I'd like to try it fresh.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

        Mmm, I'd like to try it the way you made it! that sounds lovely.

      2. go for it, low country jon!

        mr. alka loves it, and the preparation you describe sounds really good, if i do say so! myself? i'm not a huge fish egg fan......

        it is firm with a texture that is a little granular-rough (the eggs); the flavor is not-too-fishy, and a little briny. this is what i recall from when i made some for mr. alka a couple of years ago.

        1. We were served shad & shad roe at boarding school when I was maybe 12 years old. The kitchen staff were all Southerners and the food was usually remarkably good. This was a completely new dish to me and I dug in enthusiastically. However, if I remember correctly, the shad was all bones and the roe, which had been wrapped in bacon and then sauteed, was dry and grainy in texture once you got past the luscious bacon-ness of it. That one taste was enough for me. 50 years later, I'm with the love-it-or-hate-it crowd and I hate it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Deenso

            Could be the Southern staff were not familiar with shad, which properly must be deboned, which in turn is an operation of major scope. Billyuns and billyuns of sharp little bones in there, even worse than carp. I'm passing all of this along secondhand, having not yet had a chance to try either, but I'll take James Beard's and Evan Jones's word on this.

          2. I love it sauteed in butter slowly with a lid on the pan so it cooks through. The chives are up by then, so a few snips of that. I eat it every few years, not every year. I have to make a special trip to the one fish market that sells it, and sometimes they're sold out.

            1. Of course you have to try it or we're going to have to kick you out of the Southern/Mid-Atlantic Chapter of Local Seasonal Heritage Food Lovers.

              Shad and its roe are one of the few truly seasonal foods left and it seems they're only enjoyed by traditionalists these days. Few restaurants offer them and they're not widely available in fish markets. The roe is highly perishable and the shad itself is a bitch to bone. It supposedly takes years for a fishmonger to get really good at filleting them. Can't remember the number but they have three or more times as many tiny bones as any other fish. Make sure you buy it at a good market if you decide to get it for cooking at home or you will regret it.

              The traditional preparation of the roe was with bacon but the grits is a new one on me. Seems an odd combination since the textures are sort of similar - grainy - especially if the roe is overcooked at all.
              I've always like roe sauteed in butter. Easier to get it done right without overcooking. A bit of shallot and lemon is enough. It's fairly delicate and not something I enjoy when it's dried out from overcooking.

              1. Shad roe is one of my Rites of Spring! I like it for a late breakfast sauteed in browned butter.
                Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of parsley. It can be easily poached, as well. For me, the inside should still have some pinkness.

                1. Okay, I returned to Hominy Grill and tried the shad roe. Though I don't think I'll develop a craving for it any time soon, I actually liked it pretty well. I do agree that it's mostly a textural thing. The flavor itself is very mild and I only encoutered a distinct fishiness in one bite, near the end of the meal. It was a bit briney, I guess, but the bacon in the dish pushed even that flavor to the background. Frankly, with the roe being sauteed with bacon, green onions, mushrooms, and garlic, all the flavor seemed to come from the other ingredients. Not a criticism really, but even the phone book would probably taste pretty good cooked that way!

                  Anyway, I'm glad I tried it, and it may even become an annual thing for me. I'll have to see if I'm jonesing for it this time next year.

                  1. I've never had it, but for those who have: Does it compare to mullet roe in any way? I'm assuming it's far less fishy and chalky, because mullet roe was way too much for me, as it is for most people, I understand.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: dmd_kc

                      yet smoked mullet is so good. go figure!

                    2. I agree with Low Country Jon, I have had a serving of shad roe (in a local close to the Hudson river restaurant). It was not memorable, in fact not really enjoyable. Didn't like it and have never been inclined to try it again.

                      1. I cook it every few years. It's like liver, the timing is very tricky--a tad overdone and the texture goes to hell (I like my liver and roe on the rare side--and roe even done to my liking is a bit grainy). I like it with bacon but also cooked in butter--a LOT of butter, you want to sort of poach it. And I'm always up for a good squeeze of lemon. If it's not too expensive buy a pair and cook one half and then the other, if you want to play around. And have a backup.

                        1. This is one of the foods I miss the most living in the midwest. Sautee with some bacon, and you have a feast. Keep the heat low, however, unless you want exploding fish eggs in your kitchen...