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Virginia Baked Shad


One way to deal with the many bones in a shad is to dissolve them by cooking the fish very, very slowly. This is common practice in Virginia, and it results in a silky texture.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours, 45 minutes


  • 1 large shad, about 4 pounds, scaled and gutted but whole
  • 1 T. cider vinegar
  • 3 T. Old Bay crab boil seasoning
  • 2 T. salt
  • 3 onions, slivered into half-moons
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Enough smoked bacon to cover the fish


In a pan wide enough to fit the shad, boil enough water to cover the fish, mixed with 1 tablespoon salt, the vinegar and 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning.

When it reaches a boil, slip the shad gently into the pan, cover it and turn off the heat. Let the fish steep for 20 minutes.

In another oven-proof dish that is also large enough to hold the shad, lay down the onions, sprinkle the rest of the salt and Old Bay seasoning over them, then pour in enough water just to cover the bottom -- you do not want the shad to sit in water; it should rest on the onions.

Cover the pan and put in a 200-degree oven for 4 1/2 hours. After the second hour, then after every hour beyond that, check to see that there is still water in the pan.

After the fish has been in the oven for 4 1/2 hours, uncover it then move it to the broiler. Lay the bacon over the shad and broil until the bacon is crispy.

Serve with mashed potatoes and an oaky Chardonnay.

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