Sunday, December 27, 2015

Gluten Free Fried Smelts

Both my husband and I have Italian Catholic grandmothers, so we were raised with the tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve.  Growing up, I always had several fish dishes to choose from, while Mitch's family had at least seven for the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Both of our grandmothers made fried smelts, a dish we have not had since our last Christmas in Pittsburgh, ten years ago.  This year, while having dinner at Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant on Christmas Eve, we decided that we needed to revive some of our family Christmas Eve traditions, like the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  While we brainstormed all the fish dishes we could cook next year, we decided that we needed to make fried smelts, so we bought some smelts at Lombardi's Seafood in Winter Park on Saturday.

After calling my mom, my aunt, and Mitch's father and grandmother, we decided how we wanted to make our fried smelts.  They were just as good as I remembered, and I was shocked that my daughters liked them as much as my husband and I did.  Emma is very picky about fish, and will only eat salmon and tilapia, but she kept kept coming back for more fried smelts as we were cooking them.  I loved when she said, "just because I am taking more doesn't mean that I like them."  Lol...funny kid!

Mitch's dad suggested that we buy small smelts, about the size of your ring finger, which was all Lombardi's had, so we were in luck.  The plate in the picture is a salad plate, so that gives you an idea of how small they were.  We loved them so much, we are hoping to make them again before the end of Christmas break.

Gluten Free Smelts


1 lb cleaned smelts - headless, boneless
1 C gluten free all-purpose flour (I used Cup4Cup original flour blend)
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
Canola and/or olive oil for frying
Optional - lemon juice


Cut open the belly of each smelt, and remove any bones.  Put the flour, salt, and pepper in a large freezer bag.  Seal it, then shake it around and massage it to combine all the ingredients.  Add the smelts, and repeat the sealing, shaking and massaging until the fish is well coated.

Add some oil to a large saute pan, making sure the bottom is well covered, and turn it to medium high heat.  When the oil is heated, add the smelts, opening them up and laying them flat in the pan.  Make sure the flour mixture has gotten inside the cavity of each smelt.  Fry for a minute or two on each side until golden brown.  Place them on a large plate with paper towels, and add kosher salt to taste.  Continue to cook the smelts in batches, adding more oil as needed to the pan.

Optional - serve with a squeeze of lemon juice

Serves 4

Recipe Notes

We bought smelts without heads, so the only thing we had to do was cut them open and remove the bones.  Smelts can be eaten with bones, because they are soft, but we decided to remove them, just in case our daughters did not like them.

Next time we make smelts, we might put the dry ingredients in a bowl, whisk them, and dredge the smelts before frying them.

My husband fried a couple of his smelts without opening them up and laying them flat.  They were harder to turn when frying, and I did not enjoy the taste as much, but he enjoyed them.

We used a combination of olive oil and organic canola oil to fry our smelts, pouring it in the pan until it was about 1/4 inch deep.  I added a sprinkle of salt to each batch after it was done cooking, but we did not use lemon juice.


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