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Right before my birthday I was out gathering groceries and I could not believe it. I found smelts for sale! I had not had these little fish since I was a teeny weenie foodie in Montreal. My mom had bought them, pan-fried them after dusting them in flour and we ate and ate and ate. Yes, I was a weird kid. I later found out from my Auntie Laima that they had a border at their home growing up who used to cook these for them which is how my mom was introduced to them when she was young.
I divided up the smelts and put them into the freezer, waiting for inspiration to strike. I finally took them out to thaw and was catching up with episodes of Masterchef Canada. The foodie subject of the challenge? Smelts!
I could not believe it. I watched the episodes and wow, knew that whatever I did for dinner that night I would NOT make a quiche with smelts. I figured if all the contestants on the show were out of their league (pun intended) then I would share how easy smelts are to cook. Enjoying them is even easier!
Thankfully the smelts I bought were already cleaned so they were super-easy to prepare. I seasoned generously with salt and pepper and and then flipped them in a small bowl with flour until well-coated.
I used a fairly small and deep sauté pan and heated it to medium-high heat. I added a few glugs of olive oil and a big fat pat of butter. When it was nice and bubbly I added the smelts.
After about three to four minutes I flipped them and they were nice and golden brown.
These little freshwater fish turned out beautiful! Don’t forget to add a little more salt after they come out of the pan. Crispy, light and lovely. This is definitely one of my favourite fish of all time. Subtle, simple and easy to make. But wait, there is more!
I had more smelts leftover so I took inspiration from Masterchef Canada and tried to cook them after dredging them and tossing them in panko breadcrumbs.
I cooked them pretty much the same way and wow! They were even BETTER! Extra crispy and delicious, these were heavenly. I guess this is the contemporary version of the treat that my mom, Auntie Laima and Grandma had way back when.
I just hope that I can get them more often to enjoy. I find adding fish to my diet really challenging but cooking with smelts? No foodie worries!