Can you tell this one’s going to be a winner? It’s like candy, dear god, and it should probably be illegal. I eat them whole, bones and all. (okay, not the tippy tail or the head, but you could!!)
Fire up your broiler (I used my toaster oven, this also would be great on a grill in a basket) and salt and pepper your fish. Depending on the size of your bacon, you should be able to wrap half a piece of bacon around your smelt. Put them on a grill on a tray so the bacon can drain and leave the fish crispy, and pop them into the oven. Turn at least once about 6 minutes in, cook for around 15 minutes total, until crispy. I tried to think of some sides, but I had eaten all my herring before there was time. That good.
The herring run is a holy thing in our family. My mother, who is from Denmark, could hardly believe it when her son-in-law turned out to be a herring maniac. Though I grew up eating it pickled or smoked, these mystical, silvery fish are actually quite versatile, and delicious whole. But first, you have to prep them!
How to process your whole herring:
First you have to scale it. If you don’t mind a few stray scales, set yourself up at your counter, or if it doesn’t hurt your back, try scaling them in the sink. Using a teaspoon, hold the fish by the tail, and scrape opposite the scales. Be firm, but you don’t have to go too hard, since herring scales are light. These iridescent sequins are really beautiful. Turn the fish around, you may want to hold it by the head sometimes, and just scrape until you’ve got most of the scales off.
Sharpen your paring knife. Like, really sharp. Place your scaled fish on the cutting board and slice into the fish’s “vent” (poop hole) and up to the “neck.” Use your hands and a teaspoon to scrape out the innards. You will either discover two white or orange pouches. That will tell you if it’s male (white – that’s fish sperm) or orange (female – those are eggs). Pause, and ponder the wheel of life.
Rinse your scaled, gutted fish, and get ready to cook it!