Shad Fillet

Small Shad Fillet with Scallion Decor

Okay, we know about Shad Roe, and I posted once here about that food.

But what happens to the rest of the fish?  You seldom see it on the market.  I suspect the parts of the shad that aren’t roe become catfood, or worse yet, just discarded.  Or are processed into some sort of unappetizing fake food with fifty ingredients and sold with some cute name somewhere.  (Freida’s Fab Fish Fries, anyone?)

It turns out some people really do eat the fillets.

I was driving north last weekend, and saw one of those roadside fish stands that happen in New England (I have no idea if they ever happen anywhere else).  While a lot of people I know distrust buying anything from roadside fish stands, I figure if the thing has been a fixture for awhile, the locals haven’t run them out of town with pitchforks, so I’ll at least investigate them.

One of their signs mentioned the selling of shad fillets.

So, on my way back home, I stopped in.

The shad are running early this year, as winter has receded in these parts quite early.  I guess they are more of a temperature-dependent fish than an amount of daylight type of fish.  The woman at the stand also mentioned that soft shell crabs are ready a lot earlier than usual, too.

Anyhow, not ever having had shad fillet before, I bought a few ounces.  I’d recently read John McPhee’s very engaging book on shad — he’s a sports fisherman, and a shad fisherman.  (And he writes very well on innumerable topics.)   He mentions that they are possibly not popular because they are bony.

The woman at the stand told me that some consider the taste strong.  I mentioned that I like bluefish (well, usually) and so she noted I’d probably like this.

Well, I took my fillet home, and marinated it with a bit of lemon juice from 1/4 of a fresh lemon, ground cracked pepper, Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (sort of a salt-less Mrs Dash, but it tastes good).  I baked it about ten minutes at 350 F.  Got a nice scallion, and chopped it into 1/2 inch pieces, and topped my fillet with it once done cooking.  If I had gotten the larger fillet offered, I would probably have baked it fifteen minutes.  I didn’t find a single bone.

Shad fillet is milder than bluefish, but if you want flounder or something, this will likely be too strong for you.  This provided an excellent protein source to my night’s dinner this past Saturday.  It had flavor, but it did not overpower, and I recommend it.  And yes, I recommend roadside fish stands (if you note they’ve been sitting there at least for a couple years or so).

By the way… is this a New England feature, or do people see these trucked-in fishstands elsewhere in the country?  I wouldn’t expect the central part of America, but I’m curious about other coastline regions?

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5 Responses to Shad Fillet

  1. I can only dream about such a wonderful thing as a road-side fish stand, but not likely here on the NW side of Atlanta! :-) We did actually see some shad at a fish market recently. And I do know shad were credited with keeping George Washington’s troops from starving during the American Revolution!!

    • Exactly right about the shad run keeping Washington’s troops fed at the moment they were most desperate to keep going! It was one of the many saving turns of the Revolutionary War. As far as roadside fish stand go, I know of three that seem reliable in this region.

  2. Pingback: Arctic Char: Walking a Cedar Plank | Of Goats and Greens

  3. Don Hickman says:

    I am at least the fourth generation in my family that has enjoyed shad, and living in WIlmington NC (Cape Fear River) near where the shad run starts, I try to enjoy it at least once during each season. Of course our tradition is simply to fry it (yes, bones and all) and it is delicious! but thanks for the baked approach. I will definitely have to try that!

    • If I get a chance at another shad fillet I will give frying it a chance. I take it that since you live in a prime shad area, you have read John McPhee’s book about the joys of shad fishing? Quite excellent!

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