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March 5, 2010

RoCK and roe

shad roeIn this week's Free Market Friday guest post, Robert of Cross Keys savors a local delicacy. And no, it's not Pigs' Feet Yat Gaw Mein. Here's RoCK. LV

This week I finally get a taste of shad roe.  
For years I have been searching for the classic spring treat once commonplace on Maryland menus. The only place I knew that carried it is some restaurant in Emmitsburg called Shamrocks, but unless you are on a pilgrim in search of a Grotto, how likely are you to find yourself in Emmitsburg?
I always figured the Valley Inn in Brooklandville would offer it. They serve up many old school dishes for the WASPY set, like turkey tetrazzini, so shad roe would fit right in.  Of course, the Valley Inn is so old school that they don’t have a website. Since I’ve never gotten around to stopping in there – go figure, since I’m a wannabe member of the old school, WASPY set – I’ve never had the chance to look at their menu and confirm my hunch.
Anyway, I did find it, or more or less stumbled onto it, at the Chameleon Café. The run is on in Hamilton!

As soon as I saw it on the menu I had to order. Not sure if my wife would be open to it, I went on a long speech on Danny’s and the Chesapeake. I also used the word shad-tastic four or five times. None of this was necessary, as she was planning on ordering the shad roe with or without me. 

Having never had shad roe before, I imagined the liver-looking lobes would be rather oily and salty, like a combination of salmon or lumpfish roe. It isn’t. I would describe it as more earthy than fishy. It reminds me of black pudding, particularly in its soft, firm and slightly grainy texture.
The shad roe at Chameleon Café isn’t served with the traditional bacon pairing. Theirs comes with a potato-parsnip rosti, and an apple and currant chutney. The dish works very well. I particularly like how the sweet tang of the chutney really complements the richness of the roe.
The problem, but also the attraction, of shad roe is its seasonality. In an era when strawberries are available in the depths of winter, there aren’t too many foods that can't be had on demand. Shad roe, however, is one of those exceptions. If you don’t get it now, you have to wait till next spring.

In addition to the Chameleon Café and Shamrocks, the chef at The Oceanaire will prepare shad roe for you if you give him a couple of days' notice.  Finally, for the true fanatics, there is Shad Fest in Lambertville, New Jersey at the end of April, which sounds like a shad-tastic event.    


Chameleon Cafe shad roe. Photo by RoCK

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 11:17 AM | | Comments (13)


RoCK, you could have gotten shad roe (broiled, with bacon) as well as the shad proper at the Peppermill (a.k.a. God's Waiting Room).

My father has been really wanting to go to the Peppermill (go figure), now I know what I'll have there!

I just added roe to my shopping list for this afternoon's trip to the Canton Safeway. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

amazing captcha: "this delicacy"

How do you cook it, BankStreet? Doesn't it have to soak in milk and have some membrane removed? or am I confusing shad roe with sweet breads?

Joyce, although Hal is right about the crowd being, ahem, a little older, the food is pretty good. They have really good cream of crab soup (at least the last time I was there). It's fun being there around happy hour, which for The Peppermill is around 2 pm, and watching all the flirting that goes on at the bar!

I had a shad roe appetizer at The Dogwood on Tuesday night. It was my first experience with shad roe, and I enjoyed it. It found it a bit fishy, and odd in texture, but tasty. The waiter sold it as a dish for the more "adventurous" eater. I would agree. They served it with a red sauce and pepper relish. No bacon on the plate. It was also my first visit to Dogwood, and I loved it. They are very sweet and accommodating, and were most appreciative of our business. I hope they are able to stay open!


I will bread (Panko?) it and sautee it gently in butter/olive oil. This is, though, mostly by instinct and from fuzzy recollections of what my mom did. If anyone has an alternative approach, please share.

No soaking required, Joyce W. Look for a fresh-looking pair of roe. I serve one pair per person if they are small, or you can split one large pair for two people. First I cook up some bacon, and set that aside in the warming drawer. I melt half a stick of butter in the same pan and gently gently cook the roe over low to medium heat (timing depends on the size, but probably 10 minutes is enough for an average set). I serve this with steamed tiny red potatoes or fingerlings, plenty of chopped parsley, wedges of lemon and a green salad. Pour any butter remaining in the pan over the potatoes and the roe and top with the bacon. Not for cardiac patients. And Captcha chimes in: "heavens people."

thanks, Dahlink. Shad roe is one of those things I always wanted to try to make but have been just a bit afraid. Sweetbreads fall into that category too, this the soak in milk mix up!

Your recipe sounds very easy and quite delicious though!

You're welcome, Joyce. Shad roe is easy--just be careful not to overcook it! I made sweetbreads ONCE. Too much work for your truly.

The fish guy at the Canton Safeway said they had roe back in January...but no more!

When I get my pupils dilated at Katzen, I wait for my vision to return at the Peppermill next door. I can attest that the Peppermill can be happening place. It is always hard to get a seat at the bar, and one time I even saw one of the old timers carried out on stretcher.

Get thyself to the Valley Inn for the Shad Roe. It is a treat to try it there and is currently available. I just had it yesterday and enjoyed every bite!

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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