After a brief discussion with him, I bought a pound of smelt.
The older man in the store emphasized simplicity when cooking smelt, so I kept it simple, using an adaptation of what I found at Steamy Kitchen.
¾ cup corn mealMix the corn meal, flour and garlic powder.
¼ cup flour
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound smelt
2 tablespoons butter
handful fresh thyme, minced
2 cloves garlic
1 whole chili, minced
salt and pepper
juice from 1 lemon
Dredge the smelt through the breading, and gently set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter and heat the garlic in the butter. Toss in the thyme, salt and lemon juice, and reserve warm.
Heat ¾" of olive oil until hot enough to fry. (You want it around 350°F). Set the smelt into the hot oil gently (so as not to splash - remember, the trick with hot oil is to get your fingers as close as possible to it so you're not dropping stuff in - you're actually less likely to burn yourself this way).
Fry the smelt 2 minutes on a side, and remove from the hot oil. Drain briefly on a paper towel, then plate them. Drizzle the lemon/butter sauce over top of the smelt, and season with salt and pepper.
So, I loved these. They're crisp and salty and hot and delicious. Bbq Jr. also couldn't get enough of these. Mrs. Dude was a little off put by the texture of eating a whole fish with bones. I think the next time we have this, Mrs. Dude will be on a trip...
By Bbq Dude