Fried Shad Roe

Fried Shad Roe

  • Prep time

    10 minutes

  • Cook time

    5 minutes

  • Course

    Breakfast

  • Skill level

    Beginner

  • Season

    Spring

  • Serves

    2
Chef’s notes

Odds are, if you’re not from the Mid-Atlantic, you’ve never heard of fried shad roe. Which, honestly, is a damn shame.

Shad are a type of river herring, an anadromous fish that migrate from saltwater up rivers to spawn in freshwater. Each spring, shad will make their way hundreds of miles upriver to spawn. These “poor man’s tarpon” are acrobatic and a blast to catch on light tackle. More importantly, they are super tasty. The flesh is delicate, but it is one of the boniest fish out there. The roe (fish eggs) is prized as an ephemeral ingredient—the definition of hyper-local and seasonal ingredients. It's something that everyone should try if they have the chance.

Fish roe, like most eggs, have an incredibly rich flavor. Shad roe sacs contain hundreds of thousands of tiny unfertilized eggs that range in color from a blush pink to a crimson-orange. They have a briney-eggy flavor and distinct textural ‘pop’ to them. These roe sacs are traditionally pan-fried with bacon fat to crisp up the exterior and leave an underdone center. This is usually served with eggs, toast, or grits—anything that will balance out the richness of the roe.

I’ve experimented with cooking shad roe in a number of ways, and have found that in this case, the classic preparation needs no improvement. Shad roe should be lightly dusted with flour, cornmeal, or both, and then pan-fried in bacon fat. The key is to not overcook it, and it only takes a minute or two to get a nice crispy exterior. Continuing to cook it after that dries out the roe and changes the texture considerably. You want a soft, almost creamy interior, not a dried-out, crumbly one.

shad roe

The bacon fat adds a bit of smokey flavor that pairs with the roe perfectly, while also imparting a bit of salt. As for what to serve it with, creamy southern grits are my favorite. They soak up the excess fat and match the shad roe texturally. You really don’t need much else to round out this meal, but if you want to, a slightly acidic sauce pairs very well. Pesto, chimichurri, or picatta are all solid additions. I like to serve mine with lightly sauteed ramps with a touch of lemon.

As for sourcing the shad roe, you want to get the freshest ones you can get. Frozen shad roe is just not the same. You can find it at seafood markets in the spring, or go catch some shad yourself. You can tell which shad have roe by gently squeezing the abdomen. Male shad will have a white substance (milt) that comes out of their urogenital orifice, while female roe-bearing shad will show orange-reddish eggs.

Before you go fishing, check your local regulations on the legality of keeping shad. On the East Coast, where shad are native, the regulations can vary dramatically by locality. In some areas, it is illegal to keep American shad, but legal to keep Hickory shad (a slightly smaller, equally tasty fish). On the West Coast, where shad have been introduced, there are looser regulations.

Also, the meat of the shad is extremely tasty, so don’t waste it. They’re full of bones, which makes them difficult to eat, but it’s one of the more delicate and flavorful fish out there.

Ingredients

  • Shad roe set (a set is 2 roe sacs connected)
  • 2 tbsp. bacon fat
  • ¼ cup fine cornmeal, flour, or 50:50 mixture of the two

Preparation

  1. Preheat a cast iron or heavy bottom pan over high heat. Season the shad roe with salt and pepper. Dredge the roe sacks in the flour or cornmeal and shake off excess.
  2. Add bacon fat to the pan, swirling to evenly coat. Gently place the shad roe in the pan. Be careful, the roe may sizzle and pop, sending hot grease flying. Fry for 60 to 90 seconds, or until the exterior is golden brown, then flip and cook the other side for an additional 60 to 90 seconds.
  3. Remove from the hot pan and serve immediately.
Chef’s notes

Odds are, if you’re not from the Mid-Atlantic, you’ve never heard of fried shad roe. Which, honestly, is a damn shame.

Shad are a type of river herring, an anadromous fish that migrate from saltwater up rivers to spawn in freshwater. Each spring, shad will make their way hundreds of miles upriver to spawn. These “poor man’s tarpon” are acrobatic and a blast to catch on light tackle. More importantly, they are super tasty. The flesh is delicate, but it is one of the boniest fish out there. The roe (fish eggs) is prized as an ephemeral ingredient—the definition of hyper-local and seasonal ingredients. It's something that everyone should try if they have the chance.

Fish roe, like most eggs, have an incredibly rich flavor. Shad roe sacs contain hundreds of thousands of tiny unfertilized eggs that range in color from a blush pink to a crimson-orange. They have a briney-eggy flavor and distinct textural ‘pop’ to them. These roe sacs are traditionally pan-fried with bacon fat to crisp up the exterior and leave an underdone center. This is usually served with eggs, toast, or grits—anything that will balance out the richness of the roe.

I’ve experimented with cooking shad roe in a number of ways, and have found that in this case, the classic preparation needs no improvement. Shad roe should be lightly dusted with flour, cornmeal, or both, and then pan-fried in bacon fat. The key is to not overcook it, and it only takes a minute or two to get a nice crispy exterior. Continuing to cook it after that dries out the roe and changes the texture considerably. You want a soft, almost creamy interior, not a dried-out, crumbly one.

shad roe

The bacon fat adds a bit of smokey flavor that pairs with the roe perfectly, while also imparting a bit of salt. As for what to serve it with, creamy southern grits are my favorite. They soak up the excess fat and match the shad roe texturally. You really don’t need much else to round out this meal, but if you want to, a slightly acidic sauce pairs very well. Pesto, chimichurri, or picatta are all solid additions. I like to serve mine with lightly sauteed ramps with a touch of lemon.

As for sourcing the shad roe, you want to get the freshest ones you can get. Frozen shad roe is just not the same. You can find it at seafood markets in the spring, or go catch some shad yourself. You can tell which shad have roe by gently squeezing the abdomen. Male shad will have a white substance (milt) that comes out of their urogenital orifice, while female roe-bearing shad will show orange-reddish eggs.

Before you go fishing, check your local regulations on the legality of keeping shad. On the East Coast, where shad are native, the regulations can vary dramatically by locality. In some areas, it is illegal to keep American shad, but legal to keep Hickory shad (a slightly smaller, equally tasty fish). On the West Coast, where shad have been introduced, there are looser regulations.

Also, the meat of the shad is extremely tasty, so don’t waste it. They’re full of bones, which makes them difficult to eat, but it’s one of the more delicate and flavorful fish out there.

Ingredients

  • Shad roe set (a set is 2 roe sacs connected)
  • 2 tbsp. bacon fat
  • ¼ cup fine cornmeal, flour, or 50:50 mixture of the two

Preparation

  1. Preheat a cast iron or heavy bottom pan over high heat. Season the shad roe with salt and pepper. Dredge the roe sacks in the flour or cornmeal and shake off excess.
  2. Add bacon fat to the pan, swirling to evenly coat. Gently place the shad roe in the pan. Be careful, the roe may sizzle and pop, sending hot grease flying. Fry for 60 to 90 seconds, or until the exterior is golden brown, then flip and cook the other side for an additional 60 to 90 seconds.
  3. Remove from the hot pan and serve immediately.
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Fried Shad Roe

Recipe by: Wade Truong
Fried Shad Roe
  • Prep time

    10 minutes

  • Cook time

    5 minutes

  • Course

    Breakfast

  • Skill level

    Beginner

  • Season

    Spring

  • Serves

    2
Chef’s notes

Odds are, if you’re not from the Mid-Atlantic, you’ve never heard of fried shad roe. Which, honestly, is a damn shame.

Shad are a type of river herring, an anadromous fish that migrate from saltwater up rivers to spawn in freshwater. Each spring, shad will make their way hundreds of miles upriver to spawn. These “poor man’s tarpon” are acrobatic and a blast to catch on light tackle. More importantly, they are super tasty. The flesh is delicate, but it is one of the boniest fish out there. The roe (fish eggs) is prized as an ephemeral ingredient—the definition of hyper-local and seasonal ingredients. It's something that everyone should try if they have the chance.

Fish roe, like most eggs, have an incredibly rich flavor. Shad roe sacs contain hundreds of thousands of tiny unfertilized eggs that range in color from a blush pink to a crimson-orange. They have a briney-eggy flavor and distinct textural ‘pop’ to them. These roe sacs are traditionally pan-fried with bacon fat to crisp up the exterior and leave an underdone center. This is usually served with eggs, toast, or grits—anything that will balance out the richness of the roe.

I’ve experimented with cooking shad roe in a number of ways, and have found that in this case, the classic preparation needs no improvement. Shad roe should be lightly dusted with flour, cornmeal, or both, and then pan-fried in bacon fat. The key is to not overcook it, and it only takes a minute or two to get a nice crispy exterior. Continuing to cook it after that dries out the roe and changes the texture considerably. You want a soft, almost creamy interior, not a dried-out, crumbly one.

shad roe

The bacon fat adds a bit of smokey flavor that pairs with the roe perfectly, while also imparting a bit of salt. As for what to serve it with, creamy southern grits are my favorite. They soak up the excess fat and match the shad roe texturally. You really don’t need much else to round out this meal, but if you want to, a slightly acidic sauce pairs very well. Pesto, chimichurri, or picatta are all solid additions. I like to serve mine with lightly sauteed ramps with a touch of lemon.

As for sourcing the shad roe, you want to get the freshest ones you can get. Frozen shad roe is just not the same. You can find it at seafood markets in the spring, or go catch some shad yourself. You can tell which shad have roe by gently squeezing the abdomen. Male shad will have a white substance (milt) that comes out of their urogenital orifice, while female roe-bearing shad will show orange-reddish eggs.

Before you go fishing, check your local regulations on the legality of keeping shad. On the East Coast, where shad are native, the regulations can vary dramatically by locality. In some areas, it is illegal to keep American shad, but legal to keep Hickory shad (a slightly smaller, equally tasty fish). On the West Coast, where shad have been introduced, there are looser regulations.

Also, the meat of the shad is extremely tasty, so don’t waste it. They’re full of bones, which makes them difficult to eat, but it’s one of the more delicate and flavorful fish out there.

Ingredients

  • Shad roe set (a set is 2 roe sacs connected)
  • 2 tbsp. bacon fat
  • ¼ cup fine cornmeal, flour, or 50:50 mixture of the two

Preparation

  1. Preheat a cast iron or heavy bottom pan over high heat. Season the shad roe with salt and pepper. Dredge the roe sacks in the flour or cornmeal and shake off excess.
  2. Add bacon fat to the pan, swirling to evenly coat. Gently place the shad roe in the pan. Be careful, the roe may sizzle and pop, sending hot grease flying. Fry for 60 to 90 seconds, or until the exterior is golden brown, then flip and cook the other side for an additional 60 to 90 seconds.
  3. Remove from the hot pan and serve immediately.