Whenever I see tiny fish like whitebait or sardines, I think of the fresh smelt my father used to fry. I don’t know where he bought them but there was a season and he would come home with large sacks of unfrozen, small, whole smelts that he fried “hard” so that you could eat the head, bones and all without a squeamish pang. Lovely.
I found these smelt at the Super Duper Market and even though they were frozen, headed and gutted, I couldn’t resist. No they didn’t have that just-out-of-the-water fresh taste, but I could taste the memory.
Instead of reaching for a jar, I prepared some easy tartar sauce to combat any frozen, cardboard, fishy taste these smelt might have. After all, Pennsylvania is landlocked and these fish had to travel. Bummer that I couldn’t find the French cornichons but substituted with small dills. This worked out okay but, if you can find them, use the cornichons.
Most of my fresh potted herbs have suffered from the cooler weather and are stone cold dead. I still have parsley, oregano and a little thyme. I used them for the buttery herb and chilli topping, but dill in place of the oregano is perfection. I had some chillies in the fridge and used them until I was satisfied 🙂
A song in memory of my father.
Deep Fried Smelt
2 lbs fresh or frozen smelt, headed and gutted or not
1 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
Peanut oil for deep frying
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 or 2 colorful chillies or to taste, seeded and sliced
2 tbsp butter
1 handful each; dill(oregano), parsley and thyme, chopped
Mix the flour, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and paprika together in a plastic/paper bag. Toss in a handful of the smelt at a time, coating well. Fry in the peanut oil until golden brown and crispy.
Melt the butter in a small skillet, then add the garlic and chillies, sauteing until aromatic. Remove from the flame, stir in the herbs, then pour over the fried fish.