Pan-Fried Cornmeal-Coated Maine Smelts
|Fresh smelts||1 Pound|
|Flour||1⁄2 Cup (8 tbs)|
|Corn meal||1⁄2 Cup (8 tbs), stone-ground or coarse (yellow or white)|
|Freshly ground black pepper||To Taste|
|Canola oil/Safflower oil||3 Tablespoon|
|Lemon||1 , cut into wedges|
|For better than tartar sauce|
|Mayonnaise||1 Cup (16 tbs)|
|Dill pickle/Half sour pickle||1 Small, finely chopped (plus 1 tablespoon of the liquid or juice from the pickle jar)|
|Scallion||1 , finely chopped|
|Drained capers||1 Tablespoon|
|Lemon juice||2 Tablespoon (from 1/2 large lemon)|
|Hot pepper sauce||2 Dash|
|Finely chopped parsley||2 Tablespoon|
Lightly rinse the smelts and dry thoroughly.
To clean the smelts: using a small pair of kitchen scissors, hold the
smelt belly up in one hand with its head pointing away from you. With the scissors, open the belly by cutting from the vent to the point of the lower jaw. With the back of the thumb of the other hand, push the entrails out of the abdominal cavity in a single motion. Grasp the gills and the entrails and pull them clear of the head. If necessary, use the scissors to cut the esophagus just inside the jaw. Alternately, ask your fish store to clean the smelts for you.
Place the flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper on a plate and lightly dredge the smelts in the mixture until coated on all sides.
In a large, heavy frying pan (cast iron is ideal), heat the oil over
moderately high heat.It¹s hot enough when you add a speck of the flour mixture and it begins to sizzle. Add the smelts, a few at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan, and cook about 2 to 3 minutes on each side (don¹t fiddle with the fish ‹ let them cook undisturbed). When you flip the smelts over, they should be golden brown. The timing depends on the size of the fish ‹ a smaller 5-inch smelt will only take about 2 minutes per side and a larger (around 8 or 9 inches long) fish will need to cook closer to 3 minutes per side.
Drain on paper towels and serve hot with lemon wedges and the Better Than Tartar Sauce, if desired.
Better Than Tartar Sauce
This tartar-like sauce is delicious served with any sautéed or fried fish ‹ smelts, fried clams, sautéed sole or flounder, haddock, etc. You can make it several hours (but not a full day) ahead of time, and cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The sauce is enough for one pound of fish.
Makes about 1 cup
In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients until fully incorporated. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, or hot sauce to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.