Prepared the right way, shad is delicious

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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Last week, I gave you some pointers on how to hook up with one of the Valley?s most exciting gamefish... the American shad. This time around, we?re going to take a look at eating them. Whoa...wait a second can eat shad? The common misconception about shad is they are inedible, but the reality if the situation is they have a mild and delicious flavor. In fact, the American shad?s scientific name, alosa sapidissima, means ?most savory? in Latin. And savory they are indeed! Along their native waters of the Eastern Seaboard, shad are a highly prized food fish and are quite entrenched in American history... Thomas Jefferson was a commercial shad fisherman and the fish are said to have saved George Washington and his army from starving one early spring. I think a lot of the confusion out here in the West regarding the culinary attributes of the shad has to do with bones. Make no mistake, American shad are bony buggers. They are stuffed with a seemingly endless supply of small y-shaped bones that can make you crazy... and that scares a lot of people off. But, there are ways to make a great meal out of these guys... My favorite thing to do with shad is to lightly smoke it and then can it. The smoking gives it a really nice flavor boost and then the canning process dissolves all the bones. It all starts with proper care off your catch. As soon as you land a shad, quickly dispatch it and then cut the gills so that it bleeds out. After that, put your fish on ice until it is time to clean them, checking periodically that there?s no water in your cooler. When I get home, I immediately fillet the fish and then remove the skin and ribs. Then, I will cut the fish into 4-by-4 squares. A quick rinse in tap water and a pat-down with a paper towel and it?s ready to go. At that point, a dry rub of 50/50 salt and brown sugar works great ? or you can mix 4 cups water with 1/4 cup of Kosher salt and 1/4 cup either brown sugar or maple syrup. Mix the ingredients and then soak your fish in a glass container in the fridge for 8-10 hours. Pull your fish out of the brine and then let air dry until it has a tacky glaze to it. Then, put it in the smoker with alder, mesquite or cherry wood and give it a light smoke... use only one pan of chips and don?t go much more than an hour in the smoker. At that point, it?s time to cut up the fish and put it into 1/2-pint jars. Keeping things simple, you can finish things off by adding a 1/2 teaspoon of distilled white wine vinegar to each jar. Or, you can get fancy and put stuff like extra virgin olive oil or sesame oil and soy in the jars. That?s where the fun really starts... the sky?s the limit on how you season your shad. When you have your jars filled and the lids on, check the recommendations on your pressure cooker (100 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure seems to work well) and cook em? up. In the end, you?ll have a delicious snack to enjoy all year long. I love to sit down and watch a ballgame and bust out some Milton?s crackers, jalapeño slices and a jar of shad. Yum! J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. Find him online at