I have to warn you about this post: if fish is not your thing, particularly the way it comes out of the sea, then stop right here. Don’t keep reading. Don’t scroll down. The images might hurt your sensibility.
I once had a colleague, my counterpart in England (in a previous “life” I used to work in Madrid for a British pharmaceutical company), that liked fish, but only if it didn’t look like fish. He would eat fish sticks and fish filets, as long as they didn’t look like they came from an actual fish. Every time he came to Madrid for business or meetings, I’d take him out for lunch and dinner, and he loved it, loved Spanish food, wanted to try new restaurants and new dishes, and in a city like Madrid, with thousands of restaurants, and that gets the freshest fish from every end of the Spanish coast, a variety of seafood and fish was always on the menu. Dorada al horno, baked gilt-head bream, or besugo a la sal, red sea bream baked in salt, or rape al horno, baked monkfish, as main dishes, and boquerones en vinagre, chipirones fritos, fried baby cuttlefish, o calamares a la romana, battered calamari, as tapas, are traditional and very popular dishes you’ll find most everywhere in Spain.
Boquerones en vinagre are a very popular Spanish tapa, and if you haven’t tried them, I’m sure you’d love them. I’m going to show you how to make them, and the final product will not have much resemblance with the original fish it came from. So you are going to see the whole (tiny) fish. And its parts. Fish heads, entrails, and bones. All to get to the precious flesh —hence my warning at the begining of this post!
I found the anchovies I used for this recipe at the Asian food market, but you can try making them with smelt as well, which can be found more broadly (and if you do, don’t forget to tell me how they turn out!) Serve them with potato chips, or with toasted baguette. Or if you’re like me, you’ll eat them straight up. Mmmm.
FRESH WHITE ANCHOVIES IN VINEGAR
Boquerones en Vinagre
1 pound whole fresh anchovies
1 cup white wine vinegar
4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 sprigs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp of salt
Place the anchovies in a colander and wash well. Working one anchovy at a time, remove the head, using a knife or your thumb. With your thumb, loosen and remove the innards and the central spine of the anchovy, which will usually come in one piece.
Rinse the anchovies thoroughly and place them flat on a clean plate or container that can be placed in the freezer. Freeze for 3 hours (freezing will prevent illness from possible parasites, since this is a raw fish recipe).
After 3 hours, remove from the freezer, sprinkle with salt and cover with the vinegar. Marinate in the vinegar for about 3 hours, swirling the dish from time to time. As they soak, the anchovies will turn white.
Remove the anchovies from the vinegar and lay on a serving plate (do not rinse them). If desired, you can split the anchovies into two filets. Sprinkle with the chopped garlic and minced parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve alongside potato chips or thin slices of toasted baguette.