Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fried smelt

Thawed smelt on ice
Not long ago I had a chance to go lend a hand with the Forage SF Underground Market. It's an event that was happening on a fairly regular basis, though this one would be the last. I Had shown up to tend bar and help that way but Chef Larry was kind enough to have me outside working the fried smelt pop up. Smelt are a fun little fresh water fish similar to sardines or herring. Often used as bait fish, they make for a great meal battered and deep fried whole. The humorous nickname, "fries with eyes" is often heard near a fryer full of smelt. 

ready for the fryer
I ate them too fast to get a better photo
Smelt typically run once a year and fishermen simply go out and net them. You can haul a lot of the little things out of a lake in one go and freeze what you don't cook up on the spot. This batch was from a lake in Ontario and had been shipped in frozen. This might not be ideal for other dishes but as they are battered and fried, it doesn't rob them of much. 
To make them we washed and gently dried them, dredged them in a mix of flour and paprika. Next they went into an egg wash before being dredged in panko. You could use something other than these lovely little Japanese bread crumbs but they really are excellent. They were paired with caper aioli, a nice alternative to tarter sauce. 

These can also be prepared in a "deep" skillet, like a typical iron skillet, with whatever oil is handy. They'd be nice fried in duck fat! 

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