Feast of the Seven Fishes, Fried Smelts

Feast of the Seven FIshes, Dish 2.
Pan Fried Smelts with quick lemon aioli 
Smelts are simply delicious. They are silvery,  food fishes, closely related to salmon and trout and are found in cold northern waters. Much milder than sardines, they still have those yummy edible bones that are so full of nutrients! Fresh are great, but frozen are also very delicious when fried so worry not!
It is best to use smallish ( about 12-16 per pound) gutted and beheaded for this recipe.
Yes you can eat the bones! Crunch away you lusty humans!
See my note on frying at home at the end of the recipe.
Serves 4
1 to 1 1/2 pounds cleaned smelts ( about 20-24 or 5 or 6 per person)
1 cup cornstarch, divided into 1/4 cup and 3/4 cup
2 tbls Louisiana style hot sauce
2 tbls dijon mustard
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
salt and pepper
neutral vegetable oil for frying ( I like grapeseed)
Lemon wedges
 
The simply glory of a bowl of fresh smelts. If fresh are not available, frozen will work just fine in the fried dish

In a bowl whisk together the milk, hot sauce, mustard and 1/4 cup of the cornstarch.
Add the smelts and move around to coat. 
You can hold the fish in this mixture, refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
 When ready to cook, mix the remaining cornstarch and cornmeal in a pie tin or baking dish, season with salt and pepper.
Add oil to a a heavy skillet, filling it about 1/2 inch deep.
Heat to medium hot about 340 degrees.
It is best to use a candy thermometer (get one) but if you don't have one, drop piece of parsley or celery leaf into the oil. When it is sizzling, the oil is ready. 
Working in batches, remove the fish a few at a time from the milk mixture and dredge in the cornmeal mix to coat. 
Lay the fish carefully into the hot oil, making sure not to crown the pan.
Keep your eye on the heat of the oil. Don’t let it get too hot on you.
Cook the fish for about one minute and then, using tongs, carefully turn them over and cook for an additional minute. Remove to a paper towel lined platter or cookie sheet, and continue frying the remaining fish is batches. You can hold the fish in a 250 oven for a while if need be. 
Serve hot with lemon wedges, hot sauce and the lemon aioli.

Quick Lemon Aioli
Sure, you can make homemade aioli, but since Holiday cooking can be a bit overwhelming, here is a quick short cut aioli to reduce your stress level! 
For the Quick aioli
Zest and juice of one lemon
I clove garlic pressed through press or minced super fine 
1 cup prepared real mayo
1 tbls dijon
few drops olive oil
Whisk together. You can add some capers, chopped herbs, chives or scallions if you like.
Fried smelts, a little aioli and a squeeze of lemon. Simplicity at its best!


Notes on frying at home.
We are a chickenshit culture. yea, I said it.
We are afraid of so many things in America that too often we rely on corporations to do things for us. Fried food are one of these things. Frying is intrinsically not bad for you in moderation. It is corporate fried foods - fast food and diner fries, fried chicken and fish fries, mozz sticks and frozen pre-breaded junk food that are dangerous. Why, you ask? ( I hear you asking).
Because the pre breaded foods in these types of places and the oils used are not pure. The are designed to brown in a uniform way, to hold breading forever and to be done as cheaply as possible.
Commercial breading is loaded with chemicals and the frying oil itself is also laced with bleaches and anti-foaming agents to give it long shelf life, or as the industry clains - it is "high performing". Here are the ingredients in the US's most popular frying oil, Melfy. INGREDIENTS: PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL, CANOLA OIL, TBHQ AND CITRIC ACID ADDED TO PROTECT FLAVOR, DIMETHYLPOLYSILOXANE, AN ANTI-FOAMING AGENT ADDED.
And why is this high performing frying oil bad? Because when oil is held at high heat, it oxidizes, becoming toxic after a while. Ask the local fast food joint how frequently the replace their fryer oil. Once a week if you are lucky. Hmm at 12 hours a dat that is chemical laced oil being healtd at 350 for 84 hours. a week That oil that started out as a "No Trans Fat" oil, is now completely transfat due to being held at high temperatures for so long. Don't even ask me about cheapo Chinese joints. I know for a fact that shit is in the fryer until it looks like coco-cola?
But Now... the good news.
You can fry at home as they do all over the Mediterranean. Yep. Frying is part of the Mediterranean diet, friends. If you've ever been to Greece or Italy or Portugal or Spain, you know this is true.
But it's ok. You can heat pure, good quality oil hot oil for 15-20 minutes and fell ok about it. People fry at home all over the world.

1. Use good oil. Not EVOO! Grape seed and Sunflower are best for me. I avoid corn, cottonseed and canola because they are less stable, converting quicker to transfat. They are also overloaded with unhealthy Omega 6 fatty acids which causes inflammation, which is unhealthy for you in so many ways, causing arthritis, heart disease and more. Also, because they also are not really food, these processed oils need more chemicals to convert into an edible oil.s Any oil that gives you heartburn, is a transfat.
And what about "Vegetable oil". What the fuck is that, anyway. Don't even.

2. Safety. Use a heavy pan like cast iron or Dutch oven that heats evenly.
Use a candy thermometer. Keep the oil between 300 and 375 degrees. if it is getting too hot, turn down the heat. Simple as that.

3. What if it flares up? Keep cool! Always have a tight fitting lid for your fry pot of pan nearby. If for some reason you get water in your oil and it flares up, don't panic! Calmly turn off the heat and cover the pot. Leave it covered for at least 15 minutes to cool. Don't peek, as lifting the lids adds a blast if oxygen to the hot oil, and like a bellows, it will flare right back up again.
4. Waste? When you are done, cool the oil and strain through a cheesecloth or coffee filter. Store it an an airtight container in the fridge and you can use it one or two more times. After that, cool it and dispose of it. You could make lipstick with it I guses, but that's another recipe.
That is why  corporate "Fried food" is bad. 


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