Connecticut River Shad with Asparagus | A Recipe for Shad Season
Tracy Medeiros loves farmers and local food. She’s written two books about the homegrown delights of her adopted state of Vermont—Dishing up Vermont and The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook. And now, with co-author Christy Colasurdo, she is exploring the local cuisine of Connecticut with The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook (Countryman Press, 2015). If your only […]
Tracy Medeiros loves farmers and local food. She’s written two books about the homegrown delights of her adopted state of Vermont—Dishing up Vermontand The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook. And now, with co-author Christy Colasurdo, she is exploring the local cuisine of Connecticut with The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook(Countryman Press, 2015).
If your only taste of Connecticut is via I-84 or I-91, it’s easy to forget that the state is home to a thriving farm scene. According to a 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture study, the Nutmeg State’s growth rate in the total number of farms was the fastest in New England (the study looked at the years 2007-2012). The number of acres being used for agriculture has been on the rise, too.
In their introduction to the book, Medeiros and Colasurdo write, “It’s a beautiful thing to tour one’s own state and discover a thriving green foods scene in every corner, with pick-your-own operations; rustic roadside farm stands and clam shacks; community-centered farmers’ markets in the cities and suburbs; and gorgeous farms, vineyards, and orchards.” (Having grown up in Connecticut, I have fond memories of picking blueberries, apples and peaches at nearby farms…and not-so-fond memories of working tobacco one hot summer before I was old enough to find a cushier job.)
I asked Medeiros what surprised her most while working on the book. She said, “I was pleasantly surprised to learn what a strong support system Connecticut has for the sustainable movement…a truly amazing array of farms and restaurants, many of which so very generously shared their stories and recipes, along with the passions that inspired them. Being from Vermont, I feel honored that these hard-working folks have welcomed me into their wonderful food community.”
The book features 150 recipes, which Medeiros and Colasurdo sourced from chefs, farmers and purveyors. They range in complexity from a simple, fresh salads (kale with sour cherry dressing, baby greens with goat cheese) to multi-step compositions straight from restaurant kitchens (duck and foie gras poutine). Since this is the season when American shad make their way up the Connecticut River to spawn—and shad is the state fish of Connecticut—we thought we’d share a recipe for preparing this delicious fish.
Connecticut River Shad with Asparagus
Yield: 2 servings
In their notes for this recipe, the authors write: It’s a sure sign of spring when shad start running in the Connecticut River. Once considered a “poor man’s” food, shad’s reputation as a delicacy has increased as the annual catch has dwindled. Here’s a great way to prepare them.
This recipe came from Jean-Pierre “JP” Vuillermet, chef-owner of New Haven’s Union League Cafe, a seasoned chef whose French upbringing inspires his commitment to using local produce in season. The authors gush, “So much has been written about Union League Cafe, one of Connecticut’s most enduringly romantic and lavishly lauded restaurants, that there’s not much more add, except: Go!”
Notes: You can substitute herring (smaller) or mackerel or freshwater bass for the shad. You can also substitute spinach plus lemon zest or arugula for the sorrel.
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch sorrel (see Notes), washed, thick stems discarded, and chopped into bite-size pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 (6-ounce) shad fillets (see Notes), skin removed, deboned
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the asparagus: Cut the asparagus into 4-inch lengths. Blanch in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Strain and place in ice water.
To make the sorrel sauce: Place the wine and shallot in a medium-size saucepan, and bring to a boil over low heat, about 15 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and reduce until most of the wine has evaporated, whisking frequently. Slowly whisk in the cream and reduce by half, whisking frequently. Lower the heat to low and slowly whisk in the butter. Add the chopped sorrel and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the fish and season with salt and pepper. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for about 3 minutes (the fish should be slightly undercooked). Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
To finish: Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and sauté until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, divide the asparagus between two plates, arranging them in the center of each plate. Place the shad on top of the asparagus and drizzle the sauce over the fish and asparagus, to taste. Serve at once.