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Shad Stuffed with Its Roe and Wild Leeks

In her book Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables (Harper and Row 1986), Elizabeth Schneider adapts a smoky, springtime recipe she got from an upper East Side New York caterer. Ramps (wild leeks) have an even shorter season than shad roe. Shad fillets are often butterflied, with 2 "flaps" that make stuffing easy. Or, a large fillet can be cut in half and stuffing laid between the two halves.

Makes 4 servings

1/4 pound sliced bacon

1/2 pound wild leeks (ramps) cleaned (see note below); they can be found in specialty stores and farmers' markets (scallions may be substituted)

1 set shad roe (about 3/4 pound)

1 large boned shad fillet (about 1 1/4 pounds), butterflied or cut into 2 pieces

Salt and pepper

Melted butter, about 2 tablespoons

Half a lemon

Kitchen string

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook bacon in large skillet until lightly browned, not crisped. Drain and reserve fat. Halve bacon crosswise, then cut into very thin lengthwise strips.

Cut apart leek leaves and bulbs. Wrap and refrigerate three-quarters of the leaves for another use (such as vinaigrette.) Thinly slice the remaining leaves and bulbs (to yield about 1 1/4 cups.)

Heat 1 tablespoon bacon fat in skillet. Add leeks and cook just until softened, not browned or transparent; reserve.

Heat 2 tablespoons bacon fat in skillet. Over moderately low heat cook roe, covered, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides — about 6 minutes. Do not cook on high heat or cook through; roe should remain mushy in center when pressed; it should be soft and pink. Cool slightly, remove connective tissue, if necessary. Slice diagonally into medallions about 3/4-inch thick.

Lay 6 pieces kitchen string on buttered broiler pan and place shad on top. Open out the "flaps" (or lay down just one piece of fillet); season lightly with salt and pepper.

Spread half of the leeks, then half of the bacon over center section — but not the flaps. Cover with roe medallions, distributing evenly. Cover with remaining leeks and bacon. Season with salt and pepper.

Fold over flaps (or lay other piece of fillet on top). If using a single fillet, cover gap in center with a long strip of foil folded just to fit. Tie strings to hold fish firmly. Brush top with melted butter. (At this point, fish can be refrigerated. Bring to room temperature — it takes about an hour — before baking.)

Set in upper part of preheated oven for 12 minutes, until just cooked through. Place under broiler just to brown. Remove foil, squeeze lemon over top. Snip and remove strings. Serve, cut into wide slices.

Note: Clean ramps by slipping off the first layer of skin from the bulbs, then trimming off the roots. Remove any yellowing or wilted leaves, then rinse in several changes of water, swishing them about vigorously.

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