|Smelt shacks at Cap-Pele|
Roger was a little disappointed when I asked for a two pound bag. Most of his customers buy ten or more pounds, invite relatives and in-laws over and prepare a huge "smelt feed" for the entire family. That seemed a bit too much for me, considering that there are only two people and a dog in our household and few hands to do the requisite tasks of decapitating, cleaning and cooking.
The fish can be frozen if left intact, but they definitely taste best fresh from the water. To prepare smelts for lunch, my husband, who doesn't mind doing the dirty work, chopped the smelt heads off, made a long incision down the belly and removed the guts. I was responsible for the dainty job of dipping the butterflied morsels in an egg wash, and dredging them in rice flour. Lacking a "friture" in my kitchen, I simply fried the coated fish in a pan of hot oil for 2-3 minutes until brown and crisp. It's traditional to serve the smelts with chow-chow, the green tomato relish that Acadian grandmothers make from the unripened fruit of late August.
The result was a nibble of sweet, tender fish surrounded by a light, crunchy, tempura crust. Beer or a glass of Chardonnay can be paired with this meal to create a very satisfying N.B. winter feast.
For an in-depth look at the finer points of bait and tackle used in smelt fishing, check out this New Brunswick forum discussion. I had no idea that fish are attracted to marshmallows, corn niblets and deer steak marinated in clam juice!
|Fried smelts with chow-chow|