Boquerones (Marinated smelt)

Boquerones Marinated Smelt

My first trip to Spain was in 2005.   My family, including then-boyfriend E, traveled across el charco (the pond) to take a cruise around the Mediterranean.  We spent the days leading to and after the cruise in Barcelona and Madrid.  My sister had already lived in Spain for a summer, so she was well versed in the art of enjoying cañas (small draft beers) and tapas.  I tasted my first boquerones in vinegar marinated white anchovies, in Barcelona  under her tutelage.  Did she create a monster!  As soon as we made it back to the ship from the shore excursions, Eduardo and I would make a beeline to the tapas buffet and load up our plates with tasty marinated vegetables and ridiculous amounts of boquerones.  When we visit the Spanish/Cuban panaderías in the island, we sometimes order some.  They are definitely a treat: an order usually costs at least $1.00 per little fish.  I know now why!

I bought a bag of frozen boquerones at the supermarket a few weeks ago.  Instead of having “white anchovy” as the translation in the bag, it said “smelt”.  Smelt is another small, oily fish species that looks like a small salmon.  Its texture and taste make them good substitute for white anchovies in this and other recipes.  Like most oily fish, they are packed with Omega 3s and since their soft bones (espinas) are also edible, they are also high in calcium.  That’s more reason to love this very Mediterranean ceviche!

It took me nearly an hour to remove the fins, split, remove the spine and skin a pound of smelt.  Some of the little fish were a breeze to get through, but for others… I second guessed my effort.  After finishing the grunt work, I gave the boquerones a quick rinse, placed on a glass bowl, and covered in regular white vinegar.  I added about an extra inch of olive oil, a few peppercorns, a shake or two of salt, and about a tablespoon of chopped garlic scapes (ajetes).  The covered fish bowl cured in the refrigerator overnight.

Drained Boquerones Marinated Smelt

The next day, I reserved the vinegary oil that floated to the top of the bowl, and drained the smelt.  I placed the marinated boquerones in a fresh bowl, added the vinegary oil, and topped off with enough olive oil to cover them.  They kept this way in the refrigerator for a few days.

As with most tapas, the natural companion for these boquerones is a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the vinegary oil.  And chilled sangría or tinto de verano.  And maybe a few more tapas!

boquerones smelt
Marinated Boquerones
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Smelt, or white anchovies, are cleaned and then cured in vinegar and spices overnight. Serve with crusty bread to dip the vinegary oil.
Servings Prep Time
8 900minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 900minutes
boquerones smelt
Marinated Boquerones
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Smelt, or white anchovies, are cleaned and then cured in vinegar and spices overnight. Serve with crusty bread to dip the vinegary oil.
Servings Prep Time
8 900minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 900minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Run a knife over the side of the smelt to split the fish open. With your fingers, separate the fish into two halves. Find the spine and gently pull it, careful not to remove much of the flesh. Transfer the clean smelt into a bowl.
  2. After all the smelt are clean, rinse them well under cold water. Drain and dry them with paper towels. Place the smelt on a glass bowl.
  3. Cover the smelt in white vinegar. Add about an inch of olive oil to the bowl, the peppercorns and the garlic scapes and salt to taste. Let the fish 'cook' overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Reserve the vinegary oil. Drain the boquerones out of the vinegar and transfer to another clean bowl. Add the vinegar oil from the marinating process plus a little more to preserve any leftovers.

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Author:Adriana

Adriana is a financial analyst by day, avid home cook in the evenings, and food blogger and runner in the strange hours between those two. When not in the kitchen concocting meals and stories to pass around, she is out looking for the next great bite (or the ingredients to make it at home), checking what's new at the market, or planning a trip around great food and wine.

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