You may be surprised at how simple it is to prepare anchovies, sprats, sardines or other small fish to create homemade tapas. In Spain, the most popular variety is Boquerones, (also known as “white anchovies” or Engraulis Encrasicolus). This variety can be found packaged and ready to eat at several specialty shops in San Francisco including The Spanish Table. Preparing local small fish, however, in the traditional manner can be a habit that brings a lifetime of rewards.
First you’ll have to find spme fresh local anchovy, sardine, sprat, herring, or other suitable small fish. The beauty here is that eating these little fish is not only more sustainable for the oceans, but more healthful for your table. Small non-carnivorous fish are lower on the food chain and thus have accumulated less toxins in their bodies than the bigger fish like Tuna and Salmon. To prepare them as tapas you simply start by making a swift slit along the underside of the belly, discarding the innards, and then removeing the backbone by running your knife under it and lifting it out from the tail-end upwards.
Now, rinse off the deboned fish and leave them overnight in your refrigerator submerged in white wine vinegar. This will clean and bleach the flesh and also soften any remaining bones you may have missed. Changing the vinegar during the night is a nice touch but not absolutely necessary.
The following morning simply pour off the vinegar and place the filets in a shallow bowl submerged in olive oil, sliced garlic and some fresh parsley. They will keep quite well in your refrigerateo for another several days submerged in the oil and when you are ready to serve simply remove them from the oil and top them off with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a pinch of (smoked) salt, and a bit of fresh olive oil.
Now they can be presented on the table beside thick wedges of bread or garlic toast and a consortium of accompaniments including heirloom tomato wedges, roasted new potatoes, sheep’s milk cheese, fresh radishes, olives, and pickled onions.