Shad roe is a fleeting pleasure, in season only at the start of spring, when the shad swim up the Delaware River and lay their eggs.
Want to enjoy the delicacy this time around? Here's the recipe for Blue Duck Tavern chef Brian McBride's bacon-and-butter-sauteed roe with a lemony arugula salad.
Recipe serves two
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a cast-iron pan over medium heat, sauté two diced strips of lean, hickory-smoked bacon until the fat renders. Add one julienned Vidalia onion and one minced garlic clove (add a dash of olive oil if there’s not enough fat to lightly coat the mixture). When the onions are caramelized, about five minutes, remove the mixture from the pan and set aside. Wipe the pan and return it to medium heat.
2. Select a medium-size set of shad roe (two lobes). Judge it the way you would fish—it should smell faintly of the ocean and be moist but not slimy. Pat the sacs dry and season them with coarse salt and black pepper. Melt two tablespoons of butter in the pan, add two whole strips of bacon, and gently place the lobes in the pan. Let the roe brown on one side for three minutes, basting occasionally with the butter, then flip it, taking care not to tear its membrane. Place the pan in the oven for about five minutes. The roe is done when it is lightly caramelized and feels firm, like a medium-rare steak. Set the roe aside.
3. Drain the fat from the pan and return it to medium heat. Deglaze the pan with two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. When it’s reduced by 90 percent, return the onion mixture to the pan, with four tablespoons of veal demi-glace and one tablespoon of stone-ground mustard. When it starts to boil, take it off the heat and stir in two tablespoons of butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.
4. Pull off the thin connective flap of membrane between the sacs of roe. Slice the roe on the bias and serve one lobe per person over a mound of the onions with a curled bacon strip, a drizzle of sauce, and a handful of fresh arugula tossed with lemon juice and black pepper.