31 August 2007

Benito vs. the Ocean: Smelt

When I brought I half pound of smelt home from the store, The Roommate looked at me and said, "You're going to eat bait?" Honestly, upon looking at these four-inch long fish, I'm either inclined to use them for catching largemouth bass or to throw them back so they can grow. But I've had other small fish like this in Italy, and they were cheap at the store. I'm a sucker for weird stuff on sale.

A side note: I think smelt is one of the least appetizing names for fish ever, even if smœlt means "shiny" in Anglo-Saxon. What we know as Chilean Sea Bass was previously known as "Patagonian Toothfish". I've got no problem with renaming something to make it more palatable on a menu or butcher counter.

I prepared these simply, just dipping them in lemon juice and dredging them through cracker crumbs before pan-frying in hot butter. The end result? Tasty but not necessarily worth the trouble. It's difficult to keep them from burning, and while the fresh horseradish sauce I prepared was delicious, it would have been better with trout fillets. Frankly when I get the craving for little oily fish again, I'm just going to go with some high-quality tinned sardines or anchovies.


Big Mike said...


You are the man. In all of my culinary feats, smelts have never been on my table. I can not imagine me stand in the store looking at the seafood counter and saying Yum Smelts!! Keep it coming I live vicariously though you!!

Fredric Koeppel said...

where did you find these smelts?

Benito said...

I got these at the Kroger in Cordova (Germantown Parkway at Dexter), but they were only around for a few days. I've also seen them at Wild Oats every now and then.

I don't get the impression that they are a popular food item around here, though I know they're more popular up north and are a traditional Christmas food for New England Italians.