Friday, March 2, 2012

'tis the season

Trite, perhaps, but it’s true that the simple things are the real things to treasure.

Here at Keuka Lake, I am inland, and even though it is a lake, you can’t get commercial fish from it—it’s a law!

What’s a fellow to do who was raised in a coastal city, has southern Italian blood, and can’t do without simple seafood?

What I do is drive every Friday 60 miles, to Ithaca, New York, to get my fix at Wegmens grocery, where seafood and other fishes comes from all over: Portuguese sardines, bronzini, whiting, real wild salmon (in season), cockles, oysters.

Now, it is the season for one water-borne simple fish that does not come from the sea, which reminds me of a story.

Last year, when the season rolled in, I noticed that none of my favorite February/March delicacy could be had at Wegmans. When I asked the seafood department lady what gives, she said the store had stopped carrying it because it has to be super fresh and we are so far inland from the delivery point.

I felt truly bad about it, but I had to tell the woman that this particular delicacy comes from a large river fish with great teeth that spawns at this time of year upstream, beginning in the eastern portion of the Southern states and continuing north via East Coast rivers, and that includes the Hudson River, which is only 4 hours east of Ithaca by car.

I am talking about shad roe, that reddish-brown sack of shad eggs that, along with the Maryland blue crab should have been counted as one of the world’s wonders.

Here’s how to prepare it: light dusting of flour with some crushed pepper; then, sauté in olive oil with garlic and Meyer lemon (I used to use butter and a bacon strip, but since prostate cancer, I’ve been eating less saturated fats—that’s what the information says to do).

You don’t want to overcook shad roe or it will be dry and taste like the collar of a flight jacket. Inside that sack are eggs, after all. They need to be tender and bursting with river-fishy richness.

Which wine would I serve with shad roe?

After many years of experimenting, I have settled on Cabernet Franc—not the Bordeaux style, but the Loire style. Shad roe is super fatty, requiring an acidic bite in the wine; it is also quite rich in a gamey way, requiring red not white to stand up to it.

Speaking of wine: I have one more racking to go before I decide whether I will filter the Gewurztraminer and Riesling or let them clarify themselves before bottling. If I do that, the Gewurztraminer being relatively dry is not much risk, but with the Riesling measuring beyond 1% residual sugar, it is a risk not to filter, as it can ferment again when spring rolls in. Instead of filtering, I can add potassium sorbate to prevent fermentation, but I don’t like to add that stuff—or any stuff—to my wine. Besides, that stuff makes wine taste like lemon Life Savers.

What to do?

What would you do?

Oh well, not to worry. I have shad roe to keep me going for two or three more weeks before the fish move farther north. A filtering decision can wait.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
March 2012. All rights reserved.