[April] Shad and Shad Roe

Apr 2nd, 2012 | By | Category: Flavor of the Month

ShadShadadelic, Baby!!

Massachusetts may have its sacred cod but Connecticut has shad. Although only designated as the state fish in 2003, shad was an important food source long before the first settlers landed on New England shores. Native Americans saw shad as a seasonal gift and were known to have large springtime gatherings to roast shad over open wood fires, often planking them much as salmon is in the Pacific Northwest; a technique still used in springtime Connecticut shad bakes.

Shad spend most of their lives in the ocean but begin to make their way up freshwater rivers when it comes time to spawn. Shad begin to appear in rivers of the Northeast as early as March, and appear in the Connecticut River between April and June.

Shad is a member of the herring family and is valued not only for its flavorful meat, but for its excellent roe. The biggest drawback to enjoying shad is the number of bones—some 1300 in an adult fish, which grow to roughly 30 inches and typically weigh in at 3-5 pounds. And to make it even more challenging, the bones do not follow a neat pattern as they do in other bony fish, but run both horizontally and vertically. Old time shad boners guarded their techniques carefully, and for most of us, buying boneless fillets—or getting invited to a Connecticut shad bake—is the best bet.

Connecticut Stuffed Baked Shad

This recipe is adapted from The Yankee Cookbook, published in 1939 and attributed to the “New England kitchen of Louise Crathern Russell.”


  • 1 large shad, about five pounds
  • 1 cup cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/4 pounds sliced bacon


1. Preheat over to 400.

2. Make sure the fish have been cleaned and gutted, but leave head and tail on. Rinse well and pat dry.

3. In a bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, butter, salt, pepper, onion and sage. Stuff the cavity of the fish with this mixture and sew edges together.

4. Place fish on a rack in a baking pan. Add water to pan. Lay bacon slices over shad.

5. Bake for 10 minutes at 400. The reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 30 minutes, basting frequently to keep fish tender and well browned.

Serves 6.


Broiled Shad Roe

This recipe is from the Herald Tribune’s Home Institute Cookbook, a classic and bestselling American cookbook originally published in 1937.


  • 3 pairs of shad roe
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges


1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Brush roe with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and broil 5 minutes on each side.

3. Serve with Maitre d’Hotel Butter, recipe below

Serves 6.

Maitre d’Hotel Butter

Maitre d’Hotel butter is one of the most classic additions to fish of all kinds. It’s simple and elegant and brings out the best in fresh seafood. Store some in the refrigerator and use on grilled or broiled fish.


  • One stick of butter at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Dash of white pepper


Cream butter until soft. Add remaining ingredients and beat until fluffy.


Sautéed Shad Roe with Applewood Bacon

Classic preparations for shad roe are generally pretty simple and often include bacon which adds a nice salty, smoky touch.


  • 2 strips of apple cured bacon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup shallots, sliced into rings
  • 1/4 cup shallots
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 3 pairs of shad roe


1. Cook bacon in a large frying pan until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Add butter to frying pan and melt.

2. Add shallots and sauté until soft.

3. Mix flour salt and pepper on a plate and dredge the shad roe in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess.

4. Increase heat to medium and add roe to pan. Fry about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.

5. Serve hot, with pan juices poured over and garnished with crumbled bacon, chopped chives and lemon wedges on the side.


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