Crispy Smelts with Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers

Chef Rob Klink
Executive Chef - Oceanaire Seafood Room, Washington, D.C.
Recipe is from One Fish, Two Fish, Crawfish, Bluefish -- The Smithsonian Sustainable Seafood Cookbook, 2003

4 as an appetizer

1 pound fresh whole or dressed smelts, washed
4 cups canola oil
1 cup peeled and diced tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sliced fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups arugula, washed

Heat the canola oil in a heavy medium-sized pot to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oil is heating, in a stainless-steel bowl, combine tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to finish the vinaigrette. Next add the basil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In another bowl, add the flour and season with salt and pepper. Next add the smelts to the seasoned flour and toss lightly to coat each fish. When the canola oil is 350 degrees Fahrenheit, add the floured smelts and cook until done, about 3 to 4 minutes. When the smelts are done, remove them from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels to to drain the oil.

Place the arugula in the bowl containing the vinaigrette, toss, and then divide onto 4 plates. Place the smelts on top and spoon tomatoes, olives, and capers over. Drizzle a little vinaigrette from the bottom of the bowl around the plate.

Contrary to what many people may believe, smelts are a very mild fish. The spicy arugula, acidic vinaigrette, and mild smelts make a nice spring appetizer.