One of the finest Southern dishes I can recall was served to me in the home of friends in Nag’s Head, North Carolina. It was shad fillets served with deveined shrimp. Here is one version of that dish.
½cup finely chopped celery
½cup finely chopped onion
10 to 12 medium-size shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
Salt to taste, if desired
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2shad fillets (about 1pound each)
½cupdry white wine
2teaspoons chopped chives or parsley
Juice of ½lemon
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a small saucepan, heat 2tablespoons butter and add the celery and onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent.
Put the shrimp into the container of an electric blender and add salt, pepper, cayenne, and ½cup heavy cream. Blend, stirring down as necessary, to make a fine paste.
Spoon the shrimp paste into a mixing bowl and add half the vegetable mixture. Reserve the rest.
Lay 1 of the shad fillets, skin side down, on a flat surface. Note that there are two flaps on either side of the fillet where the bones were removed. Open these. Spoon the shrimp mixture down the center of the fillet and bring the flaps back up to make a three-sided “box”
Open the flaps of the other fillet and center the fillet, skin side up, over the shrimp mixture to close the box. Tie the box crosswise in about four places with string.
Butter a flameproof dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the fish in the dish and dot it with 4tablespoons butter. Scatter the remaining vegetables around the fish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the white wine. Cover the dish closely with foil. Bring to the boil on top of the stove, then put the dish in the oven. Bake30 minutes.
Pour the liquid that has accumulated in the dish into a saucepan. Keep the fish warm. Bring the liquid to the boil over high heat and reduce it by one-third. Add the remaining 1cup cream and simmer 5 minutes.
Swirl in the remaining 2tablespoons butter and add the chives and lemon juice.
Remove the string from the stuffed fish. Cut it crosswise into serving pieces, and serve with the hot sauce spooned over.