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Apr 1, 2011 09:03 AM

I want me some Smelt!

I have this wonderful bag of head/tail removed smelt sitting in my freezer that I'd love to use. So far in my recipe search all I've come across are rather bland looking breaded/fried, brined/smoked offerings (not that I'm against smoking meat, I'd rather try something new) so I thought I'd ask here for any suggestions.

So, how do you think I should approach these? Is Frying the easiest way to get great flavours/flavour combinations from these little fish?


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  1. My husband goes out every spring for smelt and we have only ever made them fried. If you want something just a bit more interesting, try breading them with a mixture of fine corn meal and flour instead of just flour, and maybe add just the slighest bit of garlic powder or chili pepper.
    Sprinkle with lemon juice and salt as soon as they come out of the fryer.
    So sorry that i couldn't give you better suggestions but I've never made them any other way.

    1 Reply
    1. re: icey

      That is exactly how I like my smelt. I might also have hot and tartar sauce on the side. Hush puppies optional.

    2. I was thinking of frying bacon in a pan, set aside the bacon, then add the fish, shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, Paprika, (maybe Tabasco too) etc., once cooked remove the fish, wrap them in the reserved bacon and serve.

      I'd like to expand the flavour spectrum a bit. What counterpoints garlic/onions/bacon well? Eggs? :D

      1. I enjoy frying best overall and something important to note is don't over fry them as in my experience when someone says its hard to get the bones out its because the fish is overcooked. You didn't say anything about the size of the smelts. If they are large enough to remove the backbone to partially bone there are a wealth of recipes. Broiled (works also with bone-in), broiled with any variety of sauces good with fish, it would taste good with a sicilian type sauce (but broil the fish because it will fall apart stewing), you could also grill or perhaps thread filets onto skewers lengthwise and grill sauced or make them into some kind of fish satay, teriyaki , etc. Or just fry them and get yourself some cod or yellowtail collars next time. :-)

        5 Replies
        1. re: itaunas

          This one hit a note with me. Being from Michigan originally I loved this time of year when our neighbors brought home buckets of smelt and always gave us more than we could eat. Wish I had some now. There are NO smelt here in Las Vegas and I can't tell you how much I crave those little babies. I just dipped them in seasoned flour or better yet, cornmeal and sauteed them. Ohhhh yeeeessssss!!!

          1. re: itaunas

            quite small ~ 3-4" each, and I THINK (I 'll have to check when I get home) that they are already de-boned. They aren't fresh, they are prepared (no head/no tails/gutted) and flash frozen, not optimal but they were on sale so...

            When breading do you use an egg mixture as well or simply flour and fry?

            1. re: KillerGriller

              Personally, I never use an egg mixture, just simple flour and corn meal so that there is very little breading. The fish, once defrosted will be wet so that is all you need to get the flour mixture to stick.

              1. re: KillerGriller

                Personally I mostly use seasoned flour, cornmeal (usually cut), and occasionally corn flour or Brazilian farinha de mandioca (essentially yuca flour). I usually season the fish beforehand, sometimes just slat/pepper, sometimes olive oil, salt, garlic, maybe occasionally lime or vinegar (especially for not very nice, poorly eviscerated) it can be overwhelmed by seasonings particularly really nice smelts. I do regularly eat them at a place which does milk, flour, egg, fish mix and its tasty, but I actually find on the smelts it flakes off a lot. Probably your results would be different with pan frying vs deep, but consider that. I also tried a flaked corn meal flour once (looks sort of like yellow corn flakes) smashed a bit in the mortar, but didn't work so well. :-)

                1. re: KillerGriller

                  I used to make those a lot at one time. Fave was a bound breading - flour, egg/milk dip, then dredge in seasoned matzo meal - which IMO makes a lighter, crispier, tastier breading than cornmeal. Pan fried in peanut oil.

              2. I suppose you could oil-cure them. Very easy to do. I do it with mackerel and it's great. The, it's a bigger fish.