Eating local is great, but I can’t do without ethnic markets. I really love browsing the aisles, discovering new produce, seasonings, and odd ingredients, or finding familiar things that are not usually available at regular grocery stores. A recent trip to Fiesta yielded such a find: fresh whole smelt for $0.99 a pound. Inspired by a tapa I have had in Mexico City’s Spanish cantinas, I made boquerones fritos, fried whole as an appetizer.
First you must wash them, cut the heads off and clean the insides. A small, sharp knife is ideal. Then rinse briefly in running water:
If you are strange like my husband, make a pile of fish heads and shoot them from different angles:
Next, place on paper towel and pat dry carefully. Let them sit there for a few minutes to dry thoroughly:
Meanwhile, season some flour with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (optional) and a hint of smoked paprika or Cayenne if you want them a bit spicy. Dredge the fish in the flour:
Get your cast iron skillet, add about an inch of olive oil and heat until almost smoking. Carefully drop them in the oil and stir gently to make sure they do not stick together or to the bottom:
Fry until golden and crisp perfection is achieved. Drain on paper towels for a minute, adding more seasonings if desired. Serve with lemon wedges (I had key limes) and a cold beer or a glass of Albariño or Vinho verde. Happy days.
Total cost: $0.99. Total prep time from guts to plate: 30 minutes Fun factor: high. Taste: killer