For years I have seen this seasonal specialty at the fish counter in my grocery store. I have heard about it in restaurants and food magazines, and I am generally pretty adventurous. I love soft shell crabs, I eat and love scrapple, In fact I think the only line I have ever drawn is at Rocky Mountain Oysters out of general support for my gender.
So when I saw the food that Barron’s Food Lover’s Companion describes as “…a much sought-after springtime delicacy…roe encased in two delicately transparent oval-shaped membranes…[with] a rich, slightly sweet nutty flavor” I decided it was finally time to try it.
Sometimes going into a situation with no expectations is a good thing but in this case I think if someone had told me, “This is going to taste like some sort of rich fatty fish liver” I at least could have said, “Oh yeah, that’s the stuff! You really nailed it!”
The thing is not that it tasted so bad–I did in fact finish mine–but that it was such a colossal disappointment! I went back to the literature (by which I mean Google) thinking I had missed some crucial step that said, “If you don’t do this step the dish will taste like gross fish liver.” There was no missing step. I made the exact same recipe as countless YouTube videos, online recipes, and some of my cookbooks.
It’s actually very simple to make this dreadful dish. Dredge the Shad Roe in seasoned flour, fry it in butter and rendered bacon fat, season a bit further and serve on some sort of fried potatoes.
I chose fondant potatoes and good thing because they were the unlikely star of the show! The fondant potatoes are quite simple and delicious. Peel and halve a potato lengthwise and brown the large flat surface. Then flip it and pour in chicken broth about a third up and put the whole thing in the oven until the potato is tender.
I added some leftover asparagus (which accounts for the shriveled look in the picture and contributed to the overall failure of that night’s dinner!)
Perhaps some day I will acquire a taste for this “springtime delicacy” but I would not put the flavor up there with truffles, foie gras, and marrow. This will probably set me apart from true gourmands, but that will have to be the price I pay, this was not a dish I would repeat.
Your recipe didn’t have lemon. Shad roe is odd – I think maybe I like it so much because my mother always impressed upon me what a very, very special thing it was – and every year, she’d share just one bite with me until I was finally old enough for my own piece. (and I love liver, so that’s probably part of it too) It’s definitely a funny, gritty texture, but I think that it works with lemon. I’ve never breaded it though, or used onions, so I’m not sure it would have worked with yours…. or, that after having “experienced” it once, you’d want to bother trying again!
Thank you Nancy! Though I neglected to mention it, I did squeeze a lemon over the final dish. Your description would have been helpful beforehand!
I’ve been talking about having some with my dad, who grew up with and loves the stuff. I sent your blog to him and he replied: “I now know not to waste my money making this delicacy for you. It may be that shad roe, like tomato aspic (some sort of tomato gelatin thing), pecha (jellied calf’s foot — yuck!), kidneys (no description necessary), milch (or “miltz” — spleen stuffed with g-d only knows what) and other assorted things either loved or hated that it is a taste acquired in childhood”. I think perhaps that he’s on to something there. I don’t believe he breads it or uses onions either but I can only think that would have served to improve the dish.
Howard thanks for sharing that. I think that’s some pretty good insight on your Dad’s part. It suggests there’s more on the plate than just the item that was cooked. When a dish conjures up memories it takes on added dimensions. Personally, I have always had a deep fondness for New England steamed clams. They are somewhat exotic and I could understand anybody finding them gross; but, they are so deeply ingrained in my youth and so hard to find anywhere else that they now hold an almost holy significance for me!
Thanks for taking the time to post the comment.
Reblogged this on ToneManBlog and commented:
I saw a display at the fish counter yesterday and realized, It’s that time of year, Shad Roe is in season. I tried it and wrote about it a couple years ago–it did not go well!
Take a look at the comments however (there are only 4). They begin to penetrate how we must approach food that has its own history.
Reblogged this on Arlington Virginia Real Estate and commented:
Pretty sure I won’t be trying this after reading Tony’s Blog. I am pretty adventurous but it doesn’t look the slightest bit appealing. Of course….I like anchovies out of the can or jar, so what do I know. 🙂