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).While this variety can be found vacuum-packaged at specialty shops, turning your local small fresh fish into tapas in the messy and traditional manner will always result in a more delicious and sustainable dish.
First you’ll have to find some fresh local anchovies, sardines, sprats, herrings or other suitable small fish. Enjoying these little fish more often is both more sustainable and healthful for your table. The smaller non-carnivorous fish are lower on the food chain and as a result have accumulated less toxins in their bodies than bigger fish like Tuna and Salmon.
To prepare any small fish for tapas you simply start by making a swift slit along the underside of the belly, discarding the innards, and then removing the backbone by running your knife under it and lifting it out from the tail-end upwards.
Next, rinse off the de-boned fish and leave them overnight in your refrigerator submerged in white wine vinegar. This will clean and bleach the flesh and 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. Submerge them completely in good olive oil along with some sliced garlic and some fresh minced parsley. They will keep quite well in your refrigerator for another several days and when you are ready to serve simply remove them from the oil and top with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a pinch of (smoked) salt, and a splash 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.