A Taste of Early America: To Bake a Shad

The Original Recipe

From The Virginia Housewife (1824)

The shad is a very indifferent fish (meaning it can be boney) unless it be large and fat. When you get a good one prepare it nicely. Put some force meat inside and lay it at full length in a pan, with a pint of water, a gill of red wine, one of mushroom catsup, a little pepper, vinegar, salt and a few cloves of garlic, and six cloves, stew it gently until the gravy is sufficiently reduced: there should always be a fish slice with holes to lay the fish on, for the convenience of dishing without breaking it; when the fish is taken up, slip it carefully into the dish: thicken the gravy with butter and brown flour and pour over it.

Modern-Day Recipe


  • Forcemeat (we recommend pork sausage)
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1/2 cup of mushroom catsup
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Open the fish and pack in the forcemeat. The amount will depend on the size of your fish and how big you made the opening.
  3. Lay the fish in a 13 x 9″ baking pan with foil in the bottom of the pan. Add 1 pint of water and the wine, catsup, vinegar, and spices.
  4. Bake the fish until most of the juice has been absorbed. Remove it from the pan by sliding it off the foil to serve whole.
  5. Put the remaining liquid in a pot. Add the butter until melted. Add the flour and stir constantly until a gravy forms.