Pan-Fried North River Smelts

February 25, 2012


I was lucky at the market today. I got my hands on some fresh, ice-fished smelts. The best way to enjoy them is simple; floured, pan-fried, salted and then dipped into a sauce. For the dip, you can pretty much use anything but I went with horseradish, because the zest of it works amazingly well with the fish. If horseradish isn’t your thing, try it anyway – it’s an acquired taste!

These make for a great appetizer but also a great lunch.
Eat the small ones whole. For the larger ones, once they’re cooked, you can easily peel away the spine, leaving you with only the filets.


Pan-Fried Smelts

• 12 smelts
• 1/2 cup white flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• a pinch of cayenne pepper
• oil for frying

If the smelts are whole, cut off the heads, gut them, and clean them under cold water.

Mix the flour with the salt and cayenne. Heat about 1/4 cup of sunflower, canola or grapeseed oil in a saucepan or chef’s pan.

Flour the fish and put them in the pan, about six at a time.
Once they’re brown and crispy on one side, flip them. It takes about 2 minutes on each side. Proceed for as many fish as you have.
Add a pinch of salt and serve right away, hot!

Horseradish Dip

• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 1 tablespoon horseradish
• 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Mix, done!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

cjdelgrosso February 25, 2012 at 5:31 pm

You keep leaving great post after great post. I may be reblogging you every week!

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Bryan February 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Thanks, I’m glad you enjoy the blog!

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k.m. February 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm

The smelts look so crispy and filling! Wish I could reach right into the photo and snag one (or, um, more!).

I don’t think we have smelts down here, but I will ask my fishmonger if he has any recommendations for a suitable local fish with which to substitute.

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Bryan February 25, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Hey k.m.
Apparently there’s some rainbow smelt down in Maryland… let me know what you find about it!

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frugalfeeding February 26, 2012 at 10:46 am

Wow! They look delicious and crispy. I think these would be lovely with a garlic aioli. They remind me of large whitebait… oh my lord I love whitebait!

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Sarah March 1, 2012 at 3:25 pm

This spells delectable to me! I love the simplicity and the presentation. Photos are great too!

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K&B N. March 4, 2012 at 1:42 am

Yum smelts ! My parents use to dry these.

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