Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pan fried shad roe with bacon シャド 魚卵のベーコン焼き

My understanding is that shad is type of fish which lives in the ocean (Atlantic in the U.S.) but swims up the river to spawn in spring. I do not think a similar fish exists in Japan. The roe of this fish is more valuable than the fish itself. It is also very seasonal and only appears in fish markets, in March and April. The first time I saw shad roe, I was a bit surprised to learn that Americans eat "fish eggs".  As I mentioned before, when I made shrimp roe with scrambled eggs, the classic way to cook shad roe is scrambled with hen's eggs as a breakfast, which was also surprising to me since "fish" or "fishy" food are usually not eaten for breakfast in the U.S.. I mentioned in passing, when I posted simmered cod roe "Tarako", that I could make a similar dish with shad roe.  

Speaking of seasonal food or shun 旬 (which is mostly lost since almost everything is available year around), it also applies to "soft shell crab" season. So one evening, on the way home from work, we stopped at the near-by gourmet grocery store and got live (until it was cleaned) soft shell crabs (which was consumed as "tempura" immediately that evening) and shad roe (which was prepared for the next evening and is the subject of this post).

I asked my wife how she likes shad roe to be prepared. She was not keen on the idea of simmering it in the broth in a Japanese style. She told me of how her grandparents looked forward to shad roe season and brought them home with much fan fare mostly to be served with eggs at breakfast but also in the traditional way with bacon. She mentioned that aside from caviar, shad roe were the only fish eggs she had ever eaten before she met me.  So in honor of her nostalgia,  I cooked these roe American style as you see in the picture above. Shad roe is similar to tarako or cod roe but the eggs are a bit coarser.  I panfried it in browned butter and bacon fat and finished it in an oven. As a side I made sautéed shimeji mushrooms and baby spinatch using the remaining bacon fat and butter.

Shad roe: I removed the membrane connecting two roe sacks first and then soaked them in cold salted water (taste just salty, 3%??) in a sealable container which can hold the roe sacks comfortably in a refrigerator for over night. You could skip this step but since we were having soft shell crabs that evening, this was a perfect step for us. It removes some of the fishy taste/smell and also brines or seasons it. Next day, I removed them from the salt water and patted them dry using paper towels. I then seasoned them with salt and pepper (left in the picture below). I then dredged with flour.

Cooking: I first slowly cooked one strip of bacon in a frying pan (for 7-10 minutes) until the bacon fat was rendered and the bacon became crispy. I set aside the bacon and added a pat of butter (1/2 tbs) and turned up the flame to medium. When the butter melted and started browning, I put the shad roe in and cooked for 2 minutes.Then carefully turned them over (the roe was still soft) and cooked it for another minutes or so until the surface get brown and crispy (another 2-3 minutes). I finished cooking in a 350F oven for 5 minutes. It is important not to over cook. I was aiming for, when pressed, soft but somewhat elastic texture (I read somewhere that this was described as "like a ripe avocado").

For the sides, after I removed the roe and set it aside, I put, in the same frying pan on medium flame, the mushrooms and sautéed them for several minutes seasoned with salt and pepper. I pushed the mushrooms aside and sautéed baby spinach next until wilted (less than 1 minute), again, seasoned with salt and pepper. 

I sliced the shad roe and garnished with crispy bacon bits and chopped parsley and served with wedges of lemon. I think that any Japanese would like this dish and it will sell in Izakaya. The shad roe has a just slightly fishy taste with a nice consistency (like that of a meatball) and browned butter and bacon fat combination cannot go wrong.


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