Saturday, January 2, 2010

Eating fish whole: Smelts

Since different parts of a fish have different types of nutrients that are important for our health, it makes sense to consume the fish whole. This is easier to do with small than big fish.

One of my favorite types of small fish is the smelt; the photo below shows a batch of smelts that I prepared using the recipe below. Another small fish favorite is the sardine. Small fish are usually low in the food chain, and thus have very low concentrations of metals that can be toxic to humans.

Many people dislike the taste of smelts, but will eat them if they are well seasoned and their texture is somewhat hard. Here is a recipe that will get you that.

- Steam cook the smelts for 30 minutes to 1 hour (less time = harder texture).
- Spread the steam cooked smelts on a sheet pan covered with aluminum foil; use light olive oil to prevent the fish from sticking to the foil.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Season the steam cooked smelts to taste; I suggest using salt, chili powder, garlic powder, and herbs.
- Bake the smelts for 30 minutes, turn the oven off, and leave them there for 1 hour.

There is no need to clean, or gut, the smelts for the recipe above. Since they feed primarily on plant matter, and have a very small digestive tract, there is not much to be “cleaned” off of them anyway.

They will be ready to store or eat cold. There are several variations of this recipe. For example, you can bake them for 40 minutes, and then serve them hot.