Shad Roe Season

Blink and you might miss this reason to rejoice.

Strokin, Yelena StockFood


Spiced, fried allis shad roe in a pan

A seasonal delicacy, shad roe arrives with spring’s first daffodils, then it’s gone in the blink of an eye. For devotees, the bulbous roe sacs hold a mythical allure; while others look at them and recoil. And that’s understandable. The sacs—a pair is known as a “set”—aren’t pretty. But, connoisseurs insist, that just means more for them.

“For me, it’s a harbinger of spring—a delicacy with a short-lived season,” says chef Walter Bundy of Shagbark in Richmond. “The older generation has a fondness for it, but I just don’t think the younger ones are familiar with it.” Bundy likes to cook shad roe wrapped in prosciutto and serve it with cheese grits. “It’s a delicate flavor and, if you’re willing to give it a try, you just might be surprised.”

Supple and delicate, shad roe requires gentle cooking to prevent the sac, which contains thousands of tiny eggs, from bursting. A dredge of flour and a little butter or bacon fat in the pan complements the uniquely earthy, mineral flavor. Bacon makes a fine accompaniment, along with asparagus. And home cooks swear by splitting the cooked lobe down the middle, opening it like a book, then adding a little butter and a squeeze of lemon.

Chef Tyler Thomas of the River & Rail in Roanoke tasted shad roe for the first time after a day of fishing on the Chesapeake with his grandfather. They breaded a set and slid it into hot oil, then savored the clean flavor and subtle brine. “That moment will remain with me forever. The flavor and the freshness are hard to beat. Since then, I’ve cooked shad roe many times and always look forward to the season.”

Thomas prepares shad roe using a quick buttermilk soak followed by dredging in a mixture of rice flour and cornmeal. The result is satisfyingly crunchy on the outside with a velvety smoothness within. With shad roe’s month-long season, now is the time to give it a try, and Thomas’ “Hangtown” Scramble with shad roe is a great way to dive in:

Shad Roe “Hangtown” Scramble

Serve this crispy shad roe with soft scrambled eggs and smoky bacon.  

  • 1/2 cup coarsely milled cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • Kosher salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper 1 set of shad roe
  • Buttermilk, for soaking
  • Crystal Hot Sauce

For the dredge, mix the first four ingredients in a bowl and set aside. For the shad roe, gently separate the lobes and rinse in lightly salted water. Pat dry. Place each lobe in a bowl with buttermilk seasoned with a few dashes of hot sauce and let soak.

While the roe is soaking, prepare soft scrambled eggs and bacon.

Prepare a cast iron skillet with an inch or so of canola oil. Heat to 325-350 degrees using a fry thermometer.

Pull roe from buttermilk mixture and place into dry mixture. Carefully press the roe into the dredge to get a good coating all over.

Fry roe for several minutes, flipping periodically until golden brown and crispy. Remove to a paper towel and season with salt. Plate with eggs and bacon and enjoy.

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue.

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