Shad, Glorious Shad

Larry and I treated ourselves to a real New England meal last weekend. We had a dinner of Connecticut River shad. For those unfamiliar with this fish, it’s called poor man’s salmon and it’s anadromous. It only appears around here in the spring when the schools, which live in the ocean, return to the river to spawn.

My mother always served baked shad with new potatoes, asparagus, and strawberry short cake. Local asparagus is available, but the shad run will be long over before strawberry season hits in mid-June. This year it may be the end of May and might overlap with the shad for a day or two.

The big drawback with shad is the gazillion little bones spread all through the fish. Until a couple of years ago there was a going industry on the river where women (I think they were all women) made a fairly decent seasonal income tweezing the bones from the fish. The result was a good but very expensive filet. My parents were lucky because they had a friend who supplied them with boned shad free of charge. She got homemade bread and other goodies in exchange, but my parents considered the super fresh fish and crabs and other seafood a real bonus.

Some recipes deal with bones by cooking at a ridiculously low temp for forever. This method is said to dissolve the bones, but I’ve never had the nerve to try it.

The roe is good, though it takes some finesse to cook that, too, because I breaks open if you look at it wrong or gets tough from overcooking. I’ve heard cooking in milk is a good solution but there’s something about fish and milk that I’ve never been able to tolerate, except for the sour cream Mom used to put on the bluefish.

In lieu of cranking up the oven, Larry and I went to Cypress, the local watering hole. Our favorite is the blackened version, which goes complements the flavor of the fish. We both enjoyed it but agreed that it tasted quite salty, as we’ve both been trying to minimize the amount of sodium in our diets.

I’ll go a hunt for shad from the fish market next week and then cajole Larry’s mother into doing the baked stuffed version, or at least cajole her into giving up the recipe for the stuffing she uses.

Hail to the Great Shad!


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