1950s Archive

From the Notebooks of Louis Diat:Shallots, Shad Roe, and Lamb

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Chicken with Mushrooms with Shallots

Quarter 2 chickens weighing 2 to 2 ½pounds each, and sprinkle the pieces with a little salt and pepper and a very little flour. Sauté the chickens, skin side down, in 4 tablespoons butter until they are golden on both sides. Add 1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced and, when they start to turn golden, add 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots. 3 ounces dry Sherry, and ½cup brown sauce (February, 1959). Partly cover the pan and cook the chickens for 30 minutes, or until they are render. Add another 5 ounces Sherry and ½cup brown sauce, and bring the sauce to a boil. Serve the chickens with rice.

Notes on Shad Roe

Every year there conies a day when you suddenly see all the poles lined up along the Hudson River for the shad nets. And then, if you are a chef, it won't be long before the maitre d'hôtel is rushing to the kitchen to warn you that every second guest wants to know why there's no shad roe on the menu.

The nets are lined up to trap the shad as they swim up the river to spawn. In rivers farther south this migration starts earlier in the year than around New York, and here the exact time varies from year to year. A long cold winter that lasts well into the time we think should be spring delays the shad. Hut always by April the business is in full swing. Nets full of “buck” shad and “roe” shad are pulled up every day and emptied into the boats. The shad itself is, of course, the most delectable of fish but it is the roe that appeals most to gourmets. And connoisseurs will tell you that roe taken from shad early in the season is never as large or as fine as that taken later. So they must eat their fill during a brief period— by June, this breeding cycle has ended.

Each fish has two pieces of roe— plump, curved pieces about four to five inches long and two inches wide. In removing them from the fish, care must be taken not to break the thin, fragile covering skin. One roe is usually allowed for a serving unless a piece of the shad itself is served with it; in that case, one roe will serve two. If you buy shad in country sections where it is running in a local river, you can get it quite inexpensively and the roe comes with the fish. But, in city markets, the roe is removed and sold separately at a much higher price.

In this country, most people prefer to eat shad roe sautéed or broiled. In France it is frequently poached and served with a sauce made with its poaching liquid. I consider the sautéed shad more appetizing than the broiled; it is less apt to be dry and a little easier to handle, too. The problem in cooking shad roe relates to the skin: Hear causes steam to form inside, the steam may burst the skin before it becomes firm, and tiny beads of roe may break through. Most cooks seem able to cope with this problem more successfully by cooking the roe in a pan rather than on a grill, because spattering can be kept under control in a pan by partially covering it. Furthermore, it is usually easier to remove cooked roe from an oiled pan than from a grill. One last warning to novices—never divide or cut a roe before it is cooked.

Sautéed Shad Roe

Dip shad roe in milk, drain the roe, and sprinkle it with a little Hour. Slowly sauté the roe in enough moderately hot salad oil to cover the bottom of a skillet, partially covering the pan. Brown the roe on one Side, turn it, and sauté it on the other side, allowing about 12 or 15 minutes in all, depending on the thickness. The roe is done if no pink tinge shows on the inside when a small incision is made. Remove the roe from the pan, discard the oil, and add to the pan a generous piece of butter. Heat the butter until it is brown and pour it over the roe. Garnish the roe with a slice of lemon.

Shad Roe Amandine

Follow the recipe for sautéed shad roe, adding to the browned butter 1 tablespoon slivered blanched almonds for each roe. Brown the almonds with the butter and pour the sauce over the roe.

Broiled Shad Roe

Sprinkle shad roe lightly with flour, and dip it in salad oil or melted butter. Place the roe on a hot pan and broil it for 10 to 15 minutes, turning it once. Serve with maitre d'hôtel butter.

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