Everything about this recipe screams spring. When the shad swim up river to breed it means it’s time to visit my brother upstate for our first camping trip every year. We have lunch on the Hudson River watching the shad fisherman compete not only for their bony, white fillets but for their crimson roe. Early spring is possibly the most precious time of year for seasonal foods because it produces a small short burst of bounty in a fleeting window. It feels so fragile and so new, bringing with it fertile creativity, relationships, sea and earth alike.
Sometimes spring feels like slowly waking up from a dream. Spring peas, arugula and fava beans return like old friends you feared you might not see again, but they come back every year to stay. Trees bud then bloom back into life. The markets start to excite me. It’s happening and this dish is as seasonal as it gets.
Shad roe isn’t pretty. It looks like a set of wet lungs lined with a fractal decoration of veins. Once cooked they’re like clumpy, meaty little balls, salty and sea-like. They lend their flavor to this dish in the most subtle way. Normally, shad roe is cooked in butter and capers. Fat lends the flavor like the original recipe here which calls for pancetta. I wanted to keep this low in fat and gluten free so I went for a pasta made entirely of black beans and used Spanish smoked paprika to mimic the smoky flavor of pancetta. Lemon juice and zest give it a bright flavor and really brings it all together. The best part about this dish is you can tweak it as you like.
Happy spring! Here’s hoping for the warmer part of the season!
BLACK BEAN ROTINI W/ SHAD ROE, FAVA BEANS AND SPRING PEAS
Adapted from The Garum Factory
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- ½ small onion, thinly sliced crosswise
- ½ celery stalk, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon peppercorns
- 1 set/pair shad roe sacs (about 8 ounces total)
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, cut into ¼ inch strips (I omitted this and added 1 teaspoon smoked paprika instead for flavor)
- 4-5 shallots minced, about 1 cup
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup blanched English peas
- 1/2 cup blanched fava beans
- 2 cups arugula
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh horseradish or 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, drained
- ¾ pound fresh fusilli or pasta of choice
- juice of ½ lemon
- zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)
For the Shad Roe:
Bring 2 cups water to a boil with the white wine, onion, celery, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Gently slip the roe sacs into the liquid (you don’t want the membrane holding everything together to rupture) and simmer 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the roe to cool in the liquid. Carefully remove the cool roe sacs from the poaching liquid. Remove the blood vessel and any heavy pieces of membrane. Split sacs in half and gently peel off the the membranes. Transfer the clean roe to a bowl. Use a fork to gently mash it into small clumps. Remove any obvious remaining membrane. Season with salt and pepper.
For the Shallots and Optional Pancetta (optional):
Heat the olive oil or cooking spray in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat starts to render, about a minute. Don’t let it get too crispy. Reduce the heat to low.
If omitting pancetta, here just add the smoked paprika, shallots and garlic and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, pea tips, tarragon and horseradish and toss until the pea tips have wilted. Keep warm.
For the Pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, stirring so the individual strands remain separate. Wait 1 minute, then stir again. Check periodically during cooking to make sure the strands aren’t sticking together. Cook until the pasta is tender but still offers a little resistance as you bite into it, about 2 minutes.
Add the roe to the pan with the peas.
Scoop the pasta out of the water and into the pan with the roe and toss well. Season with lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper. Be especially generous with pepper. Serve immediately.