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Shad Feast

Since you asked, it came out fine--though there was a certain amount of scrambling between courses when it transpired that our broiler was bust and I had to find another way to cook the fish quick like a bunny.  Luckily, I'd been thinking of using my trusty stove-top grill (one of those square pan-like ones--I love it lots), so I just tossed the fillets onto that and sprinkled the results with maybe 2 T of lemon juice mixed with olive oil and lots of chopped parsley (to cover up where the fish broke up when I turned it).  It weren't beautiful (except for the parsley), but it tasted lovely.  I've read a lot of shad recipes in the past few days, and I don't quite get why so many of them call for enrobing the fish, however cooked, in heavy, rich sauces.  It's plenty rich all by itself, thank you very much, and has a nice, delicate flavor that would be totally swamped by ermine and pearls butter and cream.

The same could be said of shad roe recipes--although next time, I shall certainly try the tip I found (much too late, alas) of soaking them for several hours in milk before cooking them, to draw out some of their slightly overpowering intensity.  I will not (as the New York Times suggested) ever, ever, ever poach them in a cup of butter, however seasoned.  Hang the calories--I can't even imagine eating anything that rich.  What I did do (since you asked), was throw a handful of chopped shallots in a saute pan with a cup of water, half a cup of white wine (Indaba sauvignon blanc, actually), the juice of half a lemon, some pepper, chopped parsley, and some rosemary (although I'm not sure the rosemary actually added anything but a nice smell), brought it to a simmer, laid the roe (lobes separated and trimmed of tissue) into the bath, and poached them for 5 minutes.

I did leave the kitchen to find a serving dish, and I did get a little distracted by guests, and the simmer got a little enthusiastic, and the roe did burst the membrane, but the result was better than I deserved.  I boiled the poaching liquid down by maybe half, with the addition of the rest of the lemon juice and some more shallots (and parsley--I'm a big believer in parsley), and some pepper, and poured it over the roe, which I had laid on salad plates against some bagged mesculun.  I was hoping the poaching liquid would serve as salad dressing, too (it was sharp enough, heaven knows), and it did, with the addition of a bit of olive oil at the table.

No pea-shoots, sadly, but plenty of snap peas sauteed in oil and shallots (you sense a theme here?) and boiled white potatoes with oil (yes, I'm worried about cholesterol.  Why do you ask?) and (you guessed it) parsley.  The guests (bless them) brought sinful delicious cupcakes from Crumbs, which we cut into tiny pieces so we could all taste all the different kinds.  We talked about Art and Writing and how hard moving a lot is on one's belongings and Rome and folklore.  And shad.

We also talked about the 1908 book of fish cookery I discovered on-line, in its entirety.  It is called How To Cook Fish, and contains Ninety-Five Ways to Cook Shad, One Hundred Simple Fish Sauces, Twenty-two Ways to Cook Carp, and so on through the piscine alphabet.  The recipes are more in the nature of guidelines than what we're used to nowadays, so it's not for the cook who needs exact measurements or directions, and there's a lot of repetition.  But it's a great place to get ideas.  My poached roe was suggested by a couple of their treatments.  Minus the heavy cream in the sauce, plus parsley.  Of course.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 19th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
This is a delightful post. Thank you for all the mouth-watering details!
Mar. 19th, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
I am still swooning. This sounds amazing.
Mar. 19th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
That sounds delicious. Delia, you're inspiring me to cook more!
Mar. 20th, 2010 01:12 am (UTC)
Why,thank you. I'm a big fan of everybody cooking more.
Mar. 19th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
The soak-in-milk thing is an old technique, I remember my grandmother doing it with fish she deemed too "fishy". I think it may be a way of covering up that the fish is not entirely fresh.

(It's not the same as haddock/cod baked in buttery milk, of course.)

On the poaching in 1 C butter (clarified?), wondering whether that owes something to the recent lobster poached in butter that Thomas Keller developed and popularized. Apparently that doesn't actually come out like butter soup; it's intended to prevent toughening of the lobster (or, I'd assume, roe). So it might not be bad, apart from ending up with a cup of fishy butter.
Mar. 20th, 2010 01:16 am (UTC)
Very possibly. But I can think of many better things to do with butter. The poaching in acidulated water worked fine, and is a lot easier on my arteries to boot.

Old techniques, I find, are frequently good techniques. I love late 19th C. cookbooks for that reason.
Mar. 19th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
I'm a piscetarian so this roe recipe interests me. I don't think I've actually had roe before. While I don't drink often or much, I do love wine in my food. This recipe might be worth trying out.
Mar. 20th, 2010 01:19 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure shad is an American fish, so you might not be able to find it on your side of the Atlantic. On the other hand, there are other fish with roe and this is the time of year they tend to spawn. I'd be interested to know if this is A Universal Roe Method. Tell me if you try it.
Mar. 20th, 2010 01:06 am (UTC)
That sounds lovely and makes me want to buy fish this evening...
Mar. 20th, 2010 06:20 am (UTC)
Shad isn't available down here in the Antipodes, so the whole recipe is unimaginably exotic to me. *salivates helplessly*
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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