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I lost a bet re: CT rivers. Now I have to eat shad roe this Spring. Need advice.

What is shad roe- shad eggs? Why does it look so, well, gross? How do you cook it? I don't think I even know what sort of fish a shad is, but I've heard it's got lots of tiny bones, and it can taste muddy. Unfortunately, I have to eat this meal come spring, and I thought I'd plan ahead. Is this dish a spring-only thing, or can I order it in a restaurant? What does the prepared roe taste like? Should I get my "friend" back and double-dog-dare-them to avoid this punishment?! I'm usually up for a culinary challenge, but I'm hesitant to take the plunge here. And who knew there was a "main" river in CT called the Thames? I thought it was in England, so now I am forced to eat shad. And review my CT facts.

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  1. Hysterical. My mother, an old 83yo Yankee through and through, loves shad roe. Every year during a certain time a friend of hers would call her to say shad roe was in season. I remember Scribners in Milford used to serve it when it is in season and they would go there together--perhaps you could call and ask Scribner himself to tell you when it is and if they still serve it and what time of year. Even my local Shop Rite in Milford gets it in. Dave (the fish man there) used to own his Dave's Seafood, so he knows his stuff and stocks it. My mom pan sears it in butter very simply--like a sack of eggs that looks like organ meat. I think it looks disgusting too and don't know how she can eat it but she loves the stuff, but she loves all gross things like liver, pigs feet, kidneys, etc. She's from the depression you know and grew up on a lake from a family of fisherman. Good Luck!

    4 Replies
    1. re: cheereeo

      In Maine, when the wild plum or shad bush is in flower, the shad are running in the rivers, is an old saying.
      I love it floured and fried in butter.
      Stuck, if you can suck crawdad heads, what's the problem?

      1. re: Passadumkeg

        Hey 'keg: Here's an old Nawlins saying: Shuck me Suck me Eat me raw! Ha ha- referring, of course, to crawdad heads (or shrimp). You have a point-it's a pretty disgusting and potentially "dangerous" food practice. I think my revulsion w/shad roe (and the reason this is my punishment) is that it looks so darn gross- I mean a raw oyster looks gross, too, but it's small. You can eat them w/o chewing if you like. Those shad must be mutants, judging by the size of their row sacs, and I rue the day I shared this revulsion w/my friend. Anyway, most of these posters seem to think it's a tasty treat, and now I have some great ideas about how to prepare it. Can't wait for Spring!

        1. re: stuck in Hartford County

          I used to catch a lot of cod when I lived in Norway. I felt like I won an extra prize when the cod was filled w/ roe; loved the tongues and cheeks too.
          I'd be worried if I lost a bet and had to eat a mess of Pop Tarts or Big Macs!

    2. Sounds like you won the bet. You get to eat a great delicacy and look at it as punishment???

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        stuck wins on two fronts: gets to eat shad roe AND learns a little about our great rivers. I've sailed the major ones and they are beautiful. Living along Long Island Sound is very cool.

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Well put Sam! This is one of my favorite spring time treats. Served with shad as well as roe it is a feast. I think the roe is delicate and easily dried out or over powered. I've read recipes warning against frying it in bacon fat or even butter, as they can over power the subtle flavor. Shad can be boned, although it is tricky. Most fans prefer to pick around the bones as the bones add more flavor. I live somewhat near the Delaware River and there was a time when the river was too polluted for the shad to do well. People in our area are very proud that the shad have come back. There is a shad festival in Lambertville NJ every year to celebrate the return of the shad each spring!

        2. Consider yourself lucky--we can never find it up here in New Hampshire and drive down to Boston when we see it on a menu. The few times we have been fortunate enough to score it, we cook it the classic James Beard way: braised in a stick of butter and served with bacon. It is heaven.

          1. Shad roe is delicious! The scientific name is "Alosa sapidissima" - and "sapidissima" means "tastiest."

            Here in California, they run in June and July. I typically catch and release, but I'll occasionally keep a heavy hen or two. The texture of the roe is soft and creamy without being mushy. I'd say the closest comparison would be sweetbreads. The flavor has a bit of the ocean, but it isn't fishy.

            I like to brine the egg sacs in salt water in the fridge overnight. The next day, chop and fry a few slices of bacon over low heat. While the bacon's cooking, dust the roe sacs with flour. Remove the bacon bits, raise the heat, and fry the roe for a minute or two per side, just until they turn golden (overcooked roe has an unpleasant texture, like overcooked liver).

            Remove, sprinkle with the bacon bits, and spritz with a little lemon juice. With some crusty bread and a tangy salad, there's nothing better.

            1 Reply
            1. re: alanbarnes

              Oh yum and thanks, I'm going to try it this way next spring!

              I usually parboil it at a simmer in salted water for about three minutes. (prick the eggs sacs a couple times with a pin so they don't explode.) Drain on paper towels and then panfry in butter about two minutes per side and serve with lemon juice.

              To the OP: You are in for a treat if you like fish. I've had shad - it's ok, I don't go out of my way for it. The roe is a different meal - my favorite fish are shad roe, soft-shelled crab, lobster, scallops, with the roe being number one. The taste of the roe is very mild. I think the appearance is what puts most people off, and I'm actually glad most folks aren't interested, because it means more fish are left to spawn and make more roe for next year. <g>

            2. Mr. Barnes is right on target.

              What I was going to say before he blurted out "sweetbreads" is that most any sweetbread recipe can be swapped out to use shad roe.

              Shad roe is so delicious when prepared with a modicum of care, I suggest that OP stuck in Hartford County do a "dry run," before eating the shad roe in front of the "winner" of the bet. I assure you, it's going to be delicious, and if you *know* what it tastes like, you won't offer your friend the least inkling that you've had any trepidation about this.

              1. Oh, lucky you! You're in for a treat.

                Lightly floured roe sacs pan fried in butter can be delish. Let butter brown and pour it over the whole roe sack & spritz with lemon juice and minced parsley (or think of sole Meuniére).

                If you're eating the shad flesh, find a skilled Chinese seafood cook who knows how to slice & cook the meat so that the tiny bones are edible a la canned sardine bones. This stir-fried dish can be very special.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Stephanie Wong

                  Like Soonyi (sp)? We would get jook with soonyi, and the nice thing about this boney fish was the way it was sliced across the bones, so that there was only a very small piece of bone in each slice, and the raw slices would cook in the hot bowl of jook. Delicious.

                2. Jeez. Relax.
                  You weren't challenged to go bunjee jumping from a helicopter with a live snake.
                  It's fish roe. Caviar under certain terms.
                  You a foodie or not?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: slewfoot

                    Sure I am- and I love good caviar! I have eaten a huge variety of "local delicacies" state-side, and abroad. Some were terrific. Some were "not so much". And some were god awful. I live to try new foods. But there's something so off-putting" to me about this local food- I really don't know why I'm not all over it because it sounds like lots of folks really like it. I just want to know how to prepare it so it's really good, and where i can try it prepared by a professional chef.

                  2. We're big Shad eaters here in Eastern PA, so we are very happy in the Spring, when the Shad run in the Delaware, my mother lightly dusts the roe in flour and frys the Shad Roe in butter then she lets someone else eat it, cause she won't. The Shad flesh is delicious, soft and tender, but there are alot of bones, you can get it "boned" but the price jumps to around $7-8 a pound. IT is worth it. Baked Shad and Scallops Potatos, Yummy ! To me the Shad Roe tastes a little like liver.

                    1. You'll find some recipes that say to parboil the roe before the fry step and some that omit the parboiling. A few years ago I did a side-by-side tasting of parboiled and non-parboiled, and I highly recommend that you do not parboil. The roe was way overcooked after the fry. The purpose of the parboiling is ostensibly to firm up the roe but in my experience that step is unnecessary. You will enjoy your punishment very much!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: TomSwift

                        Interesting - thanks - I will try your method. What were your cooking times/temps, etc.? The way I was taught to cook it - barely simmering water, and low heat panfry in butter (covered) for a couple minutes per side, usually results in a firm texture, still slightly pink in the middle.

                        To the OP - hope you'll share your experience next spring!

                        1. re: pasuga

                          I hope it works for you. I used a mixture of butter and bacon grease (I prefer grease but "fat" is now more PC) , low heat and about 3-4 minutes per side depending on the size of the lobes. There's nothing worse than having the membrane burst. Have a great TG.

                          1. re: pasuga

                            I am actually excited about trying it now that I have so many tips. I'll definitely start a "Spring Shad" post (unless someone beats me- I thought shad was a CT only food, but I was wrong!). Informative.

                        2. A couple of weeks ago, I ordered spot prawns from Seattle. They arrived packed with roe. Oh my, insanely delicious.

                          1. And the main bridge across it is in London.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Paulustrious

                              Actually, the main bridge across it is in New London, CT and Thames is pronounced as read, to rhyme with fame(s), not as "Tems."
                              Shad are not actually fished in the Thames, but certainly in the Connecticut River, if that was one of the OP's questions. The fish is a major PITA to bone out. We served it in a private club in Hartford where I worked, Shad and Shad roe, side by side, sauteed in butter, served with lemon and bacon strips for the roe. Good eating.

                            2. Uh oh, it's, like, 60 degrees, and those little spring bulbs are sending up shoots...

                              C'mon Mother Earth! Don't let those shad out before their time, I'm not ready yet.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                You really are in for a treat. I grew up eating Louisiana seafood. One year I was lucky enough to be visiting a friend in Boston when the shad were running. We ordered shad roe in several restaurants and I really enjoyed them. They did look a little weird to me the first time I saw them, but they were delicious. I wish I could get some fresh this spring to cook myself, but I have never seen them for sale where I am in Alabama.

                                If I could get some shad roe here, I would try alanbarnes method of cooking them. I know some people are purists and think shad roe should be eaten alone, but this recipe just sounds like spring to me:

                                You might also be interested in this article:

                                1. re: decolady

                                  Wow! I love it when someone sends interesting links- these are very helpful, thanks. My college roommate (at Tulane) was from Alabama. She and I really enjoyed random drives around the state in search of good (and cheap!) seafood and beer. Aside from shad roe, CT can't hold a candle to the seafood delights we found in LA. I miss a good crawfish boil, heads on shrimp, and crabs-not to mention oyster houses. And the cheap beer. Man o man those were good times. Suck a head for me!

                                  1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                    howdy sihc,
                                    I've lived and worked in Louisiana and go back frequently. Still, there's no reason to sell Connecticut short. Oysters, clams and lobsters are pretty good here. No crawfish (damn).

                                    1. re: steve h.

                                      forgot to add: Sunday's dinner will be Mr. B's gumbo ya ya.

                                      1. re: steve h.

                                        Uh, Steve, I bet I know you! Do you know the racing yacht "Cabady?" It races out of Saugatuck YC. in Westport, CT...

                                        Anyway, I knew CT fishermen would be on top of me ASAP, but I guess I just miss my southern roots (Eastern Shore, MD/LA... then MA/NY and finally, CT). Mr. B's in CT?! Where the heck are you?!

                                    2. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                      I've eaten plenty of good seafood in LA but frankly, northern fish fresh caught out of the LI Sound or the Atlantic Ocean beats southern seafood any day. The same is true of northern oysters vs southern ones. You can have your crawfish, and I have enjoyed crawfish a lot but they are a shadow of flavor on a good northern lobster. And if you can get Peconic Bay Scallops, you will taste heaven.

                                2. Oh my. Shad roe panfried in butter w/ scrambled eggs? Back when I was young and stupid I got into an utterly inappropriate relationship with a certain gentleman all because he cooked me shad eggs for brunch.

                                  Re: the fish itself, I'm surprised noone's brought up planking yet. Basically, you cook it on a wet board - the skin and bones stick to the plank if you pull off the meat gently enough.

                                  Are there any shad shacks left around Higganum/Haddam where you can buy them when they're running? Anyone know?

                                  1. Hi,

                                    I just so happened to read this a few days ago.Hope it helps :-)


                                    1. No shad at my fish store yet. Does the flooding affect the shad migration? Are they running down the streets of Old Mystic? When do these things hit their "peak"? Does the weather affect them? When are they coming?!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                        Any sitings yet? Shad should definitely running now, try fishmarkets in the Windsor/Hartford area.

                                      2. FYI - I called Scribners in MIlford, and they said they expect it around April 15th. Once in, they will have both Shad and Shad Roe on their special menu. Call ahead to be sure if you are interested. 203.878.7019

                                        1. Here is some shad and roe I cooked last year. Don't let the appearance of the raw roe intimidate you! This is really good stuff. Cook it with lots of butter. I look forward to this every year.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: ChrisOC

                                            OMG! One glance at your pics reminds me how hard this might be.

                                            I'm calling my fish guy in Plantsville (CT) to see if they have shad yet. Then City Fish (although I always get the rude lady who works there and refuses to pick out the "pink" scallops I prefer). Hope she doesn't answer.

                                            This is going to be interesting. I'm sort of excited to finally try these things.

                                          2. OK, sorry CT. No CT shad yet. At least not at City Fish.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                              Whole Foods in Cambridge had shad roe--we braised it in a stick of butter and served it with bacon, new potatoes and asparagus. It was sublime. It is one of those dishes you either "get", or hate. No in-between. Serve with an expensive bottle of white wine.

                                            2. Martha Stewart had a chef from Le Farm in Westport CT on Monday, cooking shad roe, which was lightly dredged in flour, sauteed in whole butter and olive oil in the same pan that bacon had been browned in, with the bacon fond and a little bacon fat, until medium (or 135*) and served on a bed of frisée, with golden and red beet wedges (the chef boiled the beets separately with apple and fennel slices,) and dressed with a slice of thick cut bacon and a drizzle of very reduced balsamic. Appeared to be an greatly enhanced version of the ubiqitious shad roe/bacon/lemon dish and looked very good. I believe the dish is served as an app at the restaurant, and seemed not at all difficult to do at home.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                Thanks for the Martha info! My plannned recipe is as follows:
                                                1 pair shad roe
                                                1/2 lb butter

                                                1 1/2 tbs. unsalted butter (!)
                                                1 1/2 tbs flour
                                                3/4 cup half & half
                                                1/2 cup sorrel leaves, washed and cut into ribbons

                                                Basically, you poach the roe in the butter, and prepare the sauce in a separate pan...serve w/boiled new potatoes/asparagus/strawberry rhubarb pie. And good white wine.

                                                The only difficulties I see are that I don't know when it's done (135*?). i don't want to over cook it. I'm not sure what the proper finished texture/color is. Also, I hope the sauce doesn't overpower the taste of the roe-perhaps I should reconsider...

                                                Oh well. I'll give it a go and see what happens.

                                                1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                  The chef on MS's show yesterday cooked them until they were firm and a bit "springy" to the touch, at medium with a bit of pink inside, and at an internal temp of 135*. Use a instant read thermometer to check if you're unsure. They don't take long to cook if sautéeing, 3-4 minutes on each side; poaching in butter at a gentler temperature will take longer. Maybe you can use this info as a guide.

                                                  The chef removed the membrane connecting the roe with scissors and was careful not to cut into the roe sac.

                                                  Your menu sounds very nice and Spring-like. I think the sorrel sauce will be a nice flavor contrast for the rich roe.

                                                2. re: bushwickgirl

                                                  Here's a link with photo: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/s...

                                                  Thanks for letting us know about this!

                                                3. WHERE THE HECK ARE THE SHAD???????????????????

                                                  There is no shad to be had. At least I can't find any.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                    Are the flowers blooming on the shad bush (aka wild plum) down there? If not, it is too early. It is named shad bush because it's blooms coincide with the spawning run of the shad.

                                                    Ye Olde Dumkegge

                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                      OK. I didn't send my original reply (which went something like this- "How the *ell would I know?!"

                                                      Instead, I googled me some shad bush. aka wild plum bush. aka june berry .

                                                      Oh, I get it. JUNE berry. B/c it flowers in June (at least in N.H., according to the articles). I don't think West Hartford, CT has these. Or if they do, I have never seen one.

                                                      So... How the *ell would I know?! Are they flowering up there, Kegger?

                                                    2. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                      I dunno from Connecticut, but here in NorCal the shad don't really start to run until some time in May. And although I've done my best to forget those winters I spent in New England, it seems as though Sacramento is a bit warmer during the first months of the year.

                                                      Be patient. The shad will show up. Unless it's one of those years when they don't...

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                        You are right, I need to be PATIENT! (Not a trait I'm particularly known for out of my classroom). And the June berry isn't called the June berry for nothing.

                                                        So I'll wait.

                                                        1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                          And the shad bush is not called the shad bush for nothing. Ask some local to point out wild plum bushes to you. They are prolific along I-95.

                                                          1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                            You really do have a treat in store. The sorrel will be brilliant with them. They are like no other foodstuff but beyond delicious. (I loved them even before I became an enthusiastic fish eater.)

                                                      2. Shad are in! Yay! I've got everything in place and I'm just waiting for the kids' meal to be done before I cook mine later tonite. It looks even grosser than I expected-mucosy and nasty-like a heart. My son refuses to look at it, much less eat it. Daughter making throw up motions...OMG! Need another glass of wine, pronto!

                                                        10 Replies
                                                        1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                          You're talking about the roe, I assume, the fish itself doesn't look anything like that. Remember, it's basically a sac of eggs...maybe that won't help...

                                                            1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                              OK, here goes:

                                                              I'm in DeepWater in Avon, CT (Rt.44) buying cod for the kids and out of the corner of my eye I see a bowl of what I assume are raw beef hearts or something, labeled "shad roe". In front of the bowl, are several shad fish fillets covered w/wax paper. The fillets are not white, but sort of light brownish. Stupidly, I say to the woman behind the counter, "Oh, you have shad!" She says that they were the first store to get them last week, and the ones for sale today have just been caught in Middletown (or maybe her supplier is there, I couldn't hear her too well). Anyway, I buy one pair of roe, to the disgust of my children. It's definitely not what I expected. It's wet looking and pink, w/red bloody veins leading to a central artery. Like a real heart. Also, it's BIG! How in the world does that little shad make that giant heart thing? Seriously, I want to know this, but I digress.

                                                              I drop the kids, who have no interest in accompanying me on this culinary adventure, at home and run to Whole Foods to get the ingrediants for my meal (new potatoes/asparagus/sorrel) that I don't have on hand. No sorrel at Whole Foods, and I actually have no idea what to substitute so I drag my son into this adventure by calling him and asking him to google "cooking sorrel substutues". He reports that chinese spinach and arugula are acceptalbe substitutes. I don't know what chinese spinach is, and I don't like the gritty texture of spinach, so I decide on the arugula. So far, the mission is going pretty well.

                                                              I get home and assemble the ingrediants and line them up in order. I open a really nice bottle of white wine and...the kids need a ride to their old elem. school to hang out w/friends. I'm like, "I can drive you there, but get a ride home. I'm on a mission, here!" When I get home, I have a glass of wine and take out the roe. OMG, it just looks and feels so gross. I'm nervous I'm going to break it or something. I wait and have another glass of wine while I steam the asparagus and potatoes, zest the lemon and chop the parsley.

                                                              I melt one pound of butter (!) in a small pot and put 3 tbs. of butter in another small saucepan. The kids come home while I'm deciding whether to separate the two halves of the row. I accidentally puncture the artery running the length of the roe and actual blood comes out on my hand. So.Gross. My son says not to do anything, just get the whole thing into the melted butter. I don't listen to him. I cut into the white sac that covers the roe and separate the two parts.

                                                              SHAD ROE FAIL! There are MILLIONS of tiny pink eggs in there! A few seep out the small puncture and I'm disgusted that I have already ruined the roe before I cooked it. I put the two pieces in to braise/saute and cover the pot. I melt the other butter and whisk in the flour and 1/2&1/2. Check the roe (looks better-no longer like a live heart) No more egg seepage! I try to turn the things, but one breaks (crap!) My son makes fun of me and my daughter says that it's OK, it's gross anyway. Now it just looks a different kind of gross.

                                                              The white sauce thickens nicely and I toss in the arugula to wilt. Potatoes? check! Asparagus? check! Sauce? check! Roe? One is perfect, the other looks like an epic roe fail. I plate the meal. The kids are staring at me. The dog is staring at me. The roe is staring at me. I'm ready to eat it.

                                                              Thank god I saw the insides before I actually ate it. It's really strange- zillions of tiny eggs inside the membrane. It tastes like?

                                                              Lobster! I'm shocked. But I shouldn't have been. The red lobster roe (along w/the tomalley) is my favorite part of a lobster. I don't have any idea why I didn't make this easy connection from the beginning! OMG! It's so good! But too much after awhile. I gave the dog the rest and saved the mangled half for another use. The meal was perfect. Maybe a salad/corn would have also been nice (in place of the asparagus). Don't need the white sauce, but it was good.

                                                              Now I have left-overs. I'm thinking about roe cheese spread? By itself on toasts? It's so good, but I'm not sure what to do w/the leftovers. Maybe w/cod? In a soup?

                                                              In conclusion, this was one heck of a meal. I loved it. If you live near Avon, go get some of this stuff and cook it. I really hate being wrong, but this was one bet I was glad to lose. The three main CT rivers? The Housatonic. The Thames. The CT. Not the Farmington. Not the Norwalk. Capiche? Kaposh!

                                                              1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                Mix the mangled roe w/ mashed potatoes for roe cakes a la Norwegian.
                                                                ps the shad bushes are all in bloom here and they made me think of you & your roe. I like scallop roe too.

                                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                  Ah ha! A new quest. The only place I've seen scallop roe was in the UK. Scallops around here are sold sans shell (and, therefore, roe).

                                                                  The potatoes are a terrific idea. I'm looking for the shad bush (aka june berry/wild plum) but none around West Hartford, CT. Maybe down the shoreline. Enjoy your shad adventures now that they are everywhere!

                                                                  1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                    I get the scallop coral right from the scallop fishermen. They save it for me when they shuck the shells.

                                                                2. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                  I've followed your shad seeking adventure for quite some time now and I'm glad it concluded in this happy way!

                                                                    1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                      Such a funny post. Thanks for sharing the outcome! I think I'm still too scared. I was the one in my house, acting like your kids, when my mom cooked it.

                                                                      1. re: cheereeo

                                                                        Oh jeez I am so jealous.
                                                                        Too bad the shad don't come a hundred miles further up the river!