Whole Shad Baked in Salt
1 unscaled 4-pound fresh roe shad
4-5 pounds rock salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Carefully slit the belly of the shad, remove
the entrails and discard, and remove the roe sacs and set aside, keeping the
outer membranes intact. Slice the cavity lining along the line of the backbone
and remove the dark veins. Remove the gills. Gently rinse the fish inside and
out with cold water taking care not to knock off the scales.
Put a layer of rock salt in the bottom of the roasting pan, carefully lay the
fish on top of the salt, then slide the roe back inside the cavity. You may pin
or truss the belly of the shad if it seems that the roe may fall out. Cover the
entire shad well with more rock salt and bake for about one hour or until the
thermometer poked into the shad itself reads 145 degrees minimum.
The salt may have formed hard crust. If so, simply crack it open and pour off
all the salt. Carefully remove the baked shad to a platter or work surface,
using spatulas. Open the cavity and carefully remove the perfectly steamed roe,
and set it aside to stay warm while you fillet the shad. Keep shad and roe 130
degrees until served.
With a thin, sharp blade, slice into the skin of the shad along its dorsal
(back) edge from the nape to the tail, cutting along both sides of its dorsal
then along the edge of the flesh just in back of the head. Slide the tip of the
knife under the dorsal edge of the skin just behind the head and lift the skin
up. Grab it with your fingers and pull the entire skin off the side of the shad
that is up. You may have to pull it off in several pieces.
There is a center strip of dark flesh running down the lateral line of the shad.
If you place the tips of your fingers on this dark meat, you can feel the ends
of the extra bones, which seem to float in the muscles. Turn the shad around so
that its tail is facing you, then, with a spatula, lift up the dark meat from
the shad, beginning near the tail and moving the spatula from the dorsal toward
the ventral (belly). It will separate from the white meat; it should also pull
out a row or two of bones with it. The remaining bones are easily removed as you
carve sections of the delicate white flesh from the shad, always slowly pulling
the sections of meat away from the shad at an oblique angle to the backbone-
with the dorsal sections removed dorsally and the ventral sections ventrally.
The bones attached to the backbone will remain on the backbone. The "floating"
bones separate muscle sections and are located about 1/2 inch below and above
the backbone. After you finish carving the flesh from one side of the shad, turn
it over and repeat the process on the other side. As you carve, remove the
servings to warmed plates. Serve with Creamy Grits, the roe, fresh spinach
cooked with bacon, and sliced lemons. A lemon butter (recipe above) is optional.
You will find some people will prefer the shad to the shad roe.