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Jun 29, 2009 01:39 PM

Fried Smelt!!!

I am looking for a nice recipe for fried smelt. How to prepare the fish, best batter, best way to enjoy. Let me know

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  1. My Sicilian MIL used to make smelts for my kids when they were in the highchair, but she didn't fry them. She boned and filleted them then made little foil packets and baked them w/oiive oil.

    The kids loved them, wouldn't touch them now if you paid them.

    1. Simpler is better in this case. Take the smelt, gut them and rinse them, dry them, toss with plain all purpose flour, fry (sorry, I don't know an exact temp) and then salt as soon as they come out of the oil. Eat alongside a nice cold beer and maybe a salad.

      1 Reply
      1. re: icey

        I really like using some chickpea flour for breading fish. You can combine it with plain wheat flour if you wish.

      2. dredge them seasoned flour and saute in olive oil is how I like them, although my kid made some a few months ago with a light tempura batter that were really good.

        1. Do you eat bones and all? Can you buy them pre-boned?

          13 Replies
          1. re: sjomansbiff

            Boning would be a terrible waste of time. The one smelt-fest (hooligan, actually, since this was in Alaska) I got to be part of was like this - Part 1: gut and behead about a gallon of the rascals (hand-caught that morning in a gunny sack); Part 2, watch friend's wife dump them by the double handful onto a tray with about an inch of seasoned flour, then into a big wire strainer to sift the excess flour back, then into a skillet of hot fat; Part 3, eat. So good, crunchy and sinfully rich. Since this was a Church of Christ crowd, we had to forego the beer, but iced tea works OK.

            1. re: Will Owen

              Don't know if they're still doing it, but when I was a kid, smelt would swarm up the rivers and streams in the Columbia basin in late winter. Guys would get out their dipping nets and long rubber boots for this annual event and bring home the bounty. We women and kids would use kitchen shears to lop off the heads, ciip off the fins and cut open the belly. Then scoop out the innards and toss into a big pot of cold water until ready to fry.

              The got shaken in bags containing flour, salt and pepper, then into the frying pan. Really good! We wouldn't think of messing around with any menu fanciness.

              1. re: Sharuf

                So, just to eat the bones and all?

                1. re: bear

                  We ate Columbia river smelt. I gutted them then I ate them bones and all. Cutting off the head is optional.

                  1. re: bear

                    No bones. We would take the edge of the fork and swoosh it down one side of the fish, lifting off the meat as a filet. After eating that, we would lift out the bones in one piece and discard. Then eat the other boned half of the fish. We'd keep this up for the dozen or so fish each person got.

                    1. re: Sharuf

                      That's how we used to eat bluegill, but the only smelt skeletons I've encountered were as easy to get through as Wheat Chex - and a whole lot easier than anchovy bones! I suppose if you had some big ones it might be a different story.

                    1. re: TroyTempest

                      They are a pretty smooth fish and don't have the hard scales that other fish have so there is no need for scaling. And yes, you do eat the bones, but you can only really see the spine but it is quite soft and pliable and therefore is not like eating a real fish bone. You just need to cut off the head (my preference), gut, rinse out, and fry.

                      They are low maintenance and delicious

                      1. re: icey

                        So just to clarify, once and for all. Just like sardines, you eat the bones and all.

                        1. re: crt

                          The little smelt can be eaten whole, but I didn't like eating the backbones of the big smelt (anything over 6 inches). I went fishing with a boyfriend once and caught several fish about 14 inches long and he told me they were smelt, but the smelt I caught with my dad were never over 7 inches long. Are there different kinds of smelt, or do they just grow bigger in the bay than in the estuary? I think the smaller ones tasted better.

                      2. re: Sharuf

                        They run the same way in Cook Inlet, and people park along the side of the road and wade down into the grey glacial-silt mud with gunny sacks, washtubs, colanders, nets, whatever, and scoop'em out.

                        1. re: Sharuf

                          Years ago, I went smelting a few times in the spring in rivers that run into Lake Superior. It was quite a tradition. When the smelt were running, word would go out and people would congregate at the river banks with wader boots and nets and big plastic buckets. Everyone would sweep the rivers with the nets and bring up netfuls of smelt. There were bonfires and much drinking of beer. Very festive.I learned a valuable lesson the first time I did this: never buy used waders. There is a reason they are being sold. There is nothing like standing in a freezing cold river with leaky waders with cold river water up to mid-thigh so that you stop feeling your legs. After that: brand new waders.

                          After being up all night smelting, there was something surreal about cleaning bucketsful of them, just gutting them, really, with a finger or thumb. And they were cooked simply, just dredged in seasoned flour and panfried. So good.

                          The smelt runs used to be a rite of spring around here. The smelt runs have been much much lower these days.

                    2. When I was a kid, we used to catch smelt (at least that's what the old fishermen told us they were) off of the San Francisco piers near the Ferry Building. We just removed the heads, pulled out the entrails, washed 'em and dipped 'em in seasoned flour, the fried 'em crisp. I don't recall doing any bone removal.
                      I understand that "smelt" is a family of small silver skinned fish that may include several varieties. But I'm no expert on seafood.
                      I'm wondering if they might not be very good rolled in fine seasoned bread crumbs and served with a tomato based sauce with lots of garlic.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: todao

                        I think they would probably be good presented any edible way. Those little gems are just flat good. The thing is not to overwork the dish, but I like your idea a lot. Especially the last three words...