The plate would have looked more than a little tan, so I included a salad in my meal's design to keep scurvy at bay.
Fried Smelt Po'Boy with Fennel-Chicory-Tangerine Salad
Disclaimer: I have never eaten a real po'boy, so I make no claims to the authenticity of my sandwich. All I can say is that it was delicious.
This looks like a lot of components, but don't worry: this all came together really fast. Also, there's nothing wrong with using regular tartar sauce, plain butter, skipping the salad, etc.
Makes enough for two servings:
- 12 ounces gutted, cleaned smelts (don't worry about the bones - they'll soften up during the frying and will be 100% edible)
- Wondra flour, for dredging
- Oil for frying
For fennel-lemon tartar sauce
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Chopped fennel fronds
- Hot pepper flakes, to taste
For mustard butter
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons creole mustard
To finish sandwich
- 12" baguette, cut into 2 pieces and sliced lengthwise (like a book)
- Fennel bulb
- 1 tangerine or clementine
- 2 handfuls shredded chicory
- sherry vinegar
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
Make tartar sauce: Mix all ingredients together and adjust salt, heat and acid to your taste.
Make mustard butter: Blend butter and mustard together.
Make salad: Thinly slice fennel bulb (a mandoline is great for this). Peel and section the tangerine into segments. Toss fennel and tangerine segments with chicory. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of sherry vinegar over the salad and then a few tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to combine, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Fry the fish: Heat 1/2" oil in frying pan. Dredge the smelts in Wondra flour. When oil is hot (sprinkle a little flour into oil - it should sizzle up and brown quickly), fry the fish in batches until lightly browned. Remove fish from pan and drain on paper towels. Let the oil come up to heat again before frying more fish. (I fried mine in two batches.)
Assemble sandwich: heat the baguettes in a 300 oven until warm and crusty. Spread the inside of the bread with mustard butter. Fill each sandwich with fish (leave some tails poking out the ends, for fun). Sprinkle fish with salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Top with tartar sauce. Serve with salad alongside or stuffed into the sandwich as you prefer. (We kept our salad on the side and stuffed a little in every now and then.)
(Edited to add: This recipe is part of Teach a Man to Fish, an online event focused on drawing attention to the problem of overfishing and to cooking with sustainable seafood. In its third year, Teach a Man to Fish is organized by the lovely Jacqueline Church. Visit her site here for more information and lots of recipes and seafood info.)