The largest member of the herring family, the American shad is a harbinger of spring. Found all along the Eastern seaboard, the fish are born in fresh water and spend most of their first year swimming downstream to the ocean. When they’re about five years old, the cycle is reversed, and they migrate upstream to spawn, retracing their path up the same tributary system, a journey that may take hundreds of miles.
According to Dan Long, wholesale manager and vice president of Crosby’s Seafood, the South Carolina shad season begins in January and ends mid-April. Crosby’s has sold the dark-fleshed fish whole and filleted, as well as its roe, or eggs, since 1981. The shop purchases both from Kevin Mosley, an area fisherman who works the Santee River. As shad is a fish of many bones, it’s the roe that most customers seek.
“We’ve always served shad roe,” says Russ Moore, chef of Slightly North of Broad (SNOB). “Its arrival is a prized spring event.” Moore only buys local roe and he gets it from Crosby’s. “I consider it artisanal—a very small operation. Each set of roe shows up in a ziplock bag, delivered to us as soon as Crosby’s gets it in.” He describes it as an old-school South Carolina delicacy, creamy and rich when cooked, and serves it a variety of ways.
All of Moore’s shad roe dishes have a breakfast or brunch vibe, the most obvious being the delicate pan-roasted shad roe with scrambled eggs and peppadew peppers. He says the key to great scrambled eggs is sourcing fresh farm eggs and cooking them slowly over medium-low heat. Moore’s also a fan of pickled peppadews, calling them “sweet but spicy, with a ramped-up pimiento taste.”
His cornmeal-crusted shad roe with confit potatoes and lemon velouté is a more complex dish. “We just started crusting the shad roe in cornmeal a few years ago,” says Moore. “When you pan-fry it, the crumbs get really toasty, adding a lot of flavor. The potato confit has good texture—crispy on the outside, really creamy on the inside.” Moore likes to finish the potatoes by wilting in some spinach, but any tender or young green should work. “The lemon velouté brings it all together,” he adds.
In another SNOB favorite, Moore wraps the roe in bacon, a traditional way of cooking the eggs to produce a crispy exterior. He pairs this with Anson Mills polenta for “a lighter play on shrimp and grits.” Hydroponic tomatoes deliver a fresh note of acid.
Dishing it up with Chef Russ Moore
Restaurant: Slightly North of Broad
First F&B gig: “I worked the grill at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola. It’s probably the busiest restaurant in northwest Florida.”
Education: Johnson & Wales University in Charleston
Favorite local ingredient: “Celeste Albers’ raw Jersey cow milk. It’s awesome and the only milk my son, Whit, drinks.”
Recipe he’ll take to the grave: “Probably something that was a total bust. I share all of the good ones.”