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 RW Restaurant Group 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 2 diced strips of lean, hickory-smoked bacon until the fat renders. Add 1 julienned Vidalia onion and 1 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 5 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 (2 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 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan, add 2 whole strips of bacon, and gently place the lobes in the pan. Let the roe brown on 1 side for 3 minutes, basting occasionally with the butter, then flip it, taking care not to tear its membrane. Place the pan in the oven for about 5 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 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. When it’s reduced by 90 percent, return the onion mixture to the pan, with 4 tablespoons of veal demi-glace and 1 tablespoon of stone-ground mustard. When it starts to boil, take it off the heat and stir in 2 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 1 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.