Clean And Prepare River-Run Shad

Capt. Bert Deener | May 1, 2008

There is an old joke about eating shad that goes some- thing like this – “The best way to prepare a shad is over an open fire. Nail several shad filets each to their own cedar plank. Prop the boards with filets toward the fire in a circle with the tops together, like a tepee. Cook the filets until the outside begins to brown. Then, remove the filets and eat the planks.”

Obviously, the folks who advance this assault on the edibility of shad either do not like fish to taste like fish or they have no creativity in the kitchen. “They’re so bony” is the typical complaint about eating shad. There are several ways to prepare shad that remove or at least render the bones edible.

We Southerners can find a good recipe to fry anything, and shad is no exception. “Gashed” and deep-fried, you can- not tell that a shad filet ever had bones in the first place. To do so, scale the shad and filet each side. Cut the filet into finger-sized strips. Then, cut a slit in the meat down to the skin every 1/8-inch down the shad finger, ensuring that you do not cut through the skin (or else, it will fall apart). Batter and deep fry the “shad fingers”, and the heat will disintegrate the bones. Browning the fingers well will ensure that the bones are all softened.

My favorite way to prepare a shad filet is to bake it. Scale and filet the shad, and place each filet on in its own piece of aluminum foil. Put a tablespoon of butter over the filet and spice to taste. Wrap each filet, and seal it into its own pouch. Cook the filets for four to five hours (yes, that was not a typo) at 250 degrees. The long, slow cooking time disintegrates the bones without ruining the quality of the meat. Be forewarned that shad cooked in the oven for that long will exude a fishy aroma throughout your house, but if you get the spice combination right, it is worth raising the ire of your housemates.

Shad roe scrambled with chicken eggs is another delicacy. On the stovetop, stir the eggs in a small amount of water in a skillet, making sure to break up the eggs as much as possible. Mix in chicken eggs and scramble. Season to taste and enjoy.

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