As a child, I remember my Mother making Fried Smelt Fish every Christmas Eve for our Feast of the Seven Fishes meal. It was one of my favorites. Honestly, you either love them, or hate them. There is really no in between. Before you turn your nose up at them, give them a try. The flavor is very mild. They are nothing like a sardine, which smelt are often associated with. Better yet, they are fairly inexpensive.
This is one of the dishes you and your guests can devour right in the kitchen as you are preparing the meal. Although, the Fried Smelt Fish are best enjoyed immediately out the fryer, I eat them all throughout the evening!
Oh, the memories I have of how I used to help her in the kitchen to prep these little fish. Thanks goodness, you can now find them ready to prepare. Be sure to ask for the smelt to be “cleaned and dressed.” I can eat these like potato chips. Just one will never do. This is a super easy and quick recipe. I love that I can now carry on this tradition in my home and share with all of you. Local to Charlotte? The Carolina Meat & Fish Co. usually has smelt in stock, or can order them for you!
HOW TO PREPARE FRIED SMELT FISH
As mentioned above, most of the smelt you can buy today are fully cleaned and dressed. However, you should rinse the smelt and inspect. You just want to be sure the smelt have been fully cleaned. Salt the fish. Heat up the oil in a cast iron skillet or deep pot (you need just enough oil for a fry). In a bowl, add the all-purpose flour, rice flour (I love this one from Bob’s Red Mill), kosher salt and black pepper. Mix with a fork or whisk to combine. Add the smelt to the bowl and dredge each piece in the flour mixture. The water from rinsing will allow the flour to adhere to the fish.
Shake off excess flour. Add smelt to the hot oil. I prefer frying in batches. You do not want to crowd the pan, as it will affect the temperature of the oil. It should take about five to six minutes for the smelt to turn a golden brown. Transfer the Fried Smelt Fish to paper towels to drain off any excess oil. Salt immediately. Continue frying in batches. Serve immediately. ENJOY! Honestly, you really need no dipping sauce. However, you can serve with a side of tartar sauce, if you so desire.
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