Fried smelt

I love fried small fish. We often go to a restaurant on the Dordogne river that serves “friture de poisson” and they are great.

Just small river fish and garlic in hot oil.

Civelles is also very nice but I tend to avoid that dish as the small eels will never get big and eels risk to become extinct.
Small fish like smelt, éperlan, never gets bigger than 15 cm, but their catch is regulated too.


I do not have a frying pan. I never make potato fries. Frying is associated with fat, and has a reputation for being unhealthy.

There are good reasons for that, but properly fried food does not need to be fat. If the temperature of the fat or oil is high enough, it will cook the food but not permeate it.
I went to the fishmonger with an idea to buy clams for pasta.

There were no clams but he had a crate of smelt, so I bought half a kilo.
At home I checked for recipes. It became clear that there are various approaches.
The main question is about batter. Some people mix the fish with flour and even milk before putting them in the oil.
This may work well for chicken nuggets and croquettes, but I did not want to cover the small fish with a floury coating.

Nor did I seek the Italian “Fritto Misto” batter of eggs, yeast, flour and beer as it would be disproportionate to the size of the fish.
For coated fish or vegetables, you also need a big container of hot oil and that would call for a real frying pan.
I poured up to one cm of oil in a heavy casserole and heated that up.
Beforehand, I had cleaned the fish in water with vinegar to remove slime, I changed the water several times and then dried the fish on paper towels.
When the oil was hot, I put in some of the fish and cooked for five minutes before removing with a slotted spoon. I repeated the operation until the fish was finished and threw in some sliced garlic.
I had kept the cooked fish warm in an over and added sliced lemon.

The result was delicious but I used up a lot of good oil. Next time, I may just put the fish in the wok…

I served spinach with the fish.


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