Around Christmas time smelts are sought after for their soft, flaky and mild taste. The fun part about fresh smelts is you can eat the whole fish, even the bones! The fish are small enough that the bones become soft when cooked. However, you can remove them as well if you prefer.
These wonderful fish are sought after by many Italian-Americans for the il Cenone della Vigilia or Christmas Eve Dinner. Fish are eaten all over Italy on Christmas Eve due to the fasting before dinner on Christmas Day. You will often find fried smelts on the menu for the Feast of the Seven Fish in America (the number if fish differ based on region) and there is a good reason for it. They are cheap, delicious and quick to make!
Crispy Fried Smelts
Fresh seasonal smelt fried and served with fresh squeezed lemon.
Prepare the smelts
Rinse and pat the smelts dry. Add the flour and salt on a plate, mix to incorporate. Dredge the smelts in the flour and shake off excess flour.
Frying the smelts
Place the smelts into hot oil in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fresh smelts cook quickly and only take 2-3 minutes per side. Drain and place on a paper towel lined plate to cool.
Serve with fresh lemon.