It is surprisingly simple task to transform any number of small fish varieties such as anchovies, sprats, or sardines into homemade tapas. The smaller non-carnivorous fish are both a healthier and more sustainable Seafood Choice.
Unlike larger carnivorous fish such as Salmon or Tuna, smaller species do not accumulate the toxins in their bodies derived from a diet of smaller prey. By eating fish lower on the food chain we also deplete far less of the ocean’s total biomass with each bite.
In Spain, the fish typically used for tapas are called Boquerones, or “white anchovies” . If you can’t find white anchovies dont fret. There are plenty of other small fish in the sea. Just look for a nice petite clear-eyed candidate. Yes, you can also buy the Boquerones packaged and imported from Spain at specialty shops such as The Spanish Table in San Francisco, but preparing, and preserving local small fish yourself also provides the most sustainable and delectable seafood experience.
So, with a few anchovies, sprats, sardines, or other small-fish at hand, start by rinsing them carefully at your sink. Next, make a small slit along the underside of the belly to remove, and discard the innards.
With the innards removed, rinse the fish again and then lay them out on a clean chopping board.The entirety of the backbone can now be removed in one fell swoop by holding the tail, gently edging the knife under the spine at the tail end, and sliding the knife up the spine towards the head.
With the spine and head removed, you must now seek and discard any small bones you may see, or feel, within the flesh. Once deboned, simply submerge the fish in white wine vinegar in shallow glass, ceramic, or pyrex bowl, and leave it overnight in your refrigerator. The marination will also soften any tiny bones you may have missed in the fish. Changing the vinegar once during the night is a nice touch, but not absolutely necessary.
The following morning just pour off the vinegar and place the fish in a mason jar with sliced garlic, onions, chopped parsley, salt and white pepper, and lemon juice. Immerse everything in the mason jar with good olive oil. The pickled, seasoned, and oil-submerged fish will keep for several days in your refrigerator getting more delightful with each day.
As you plate the tapas, add a fresh squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of (smoked) salt, and a final drizzle of fresh olive oil. Serve the Boquerones with fresh chewy-crusted bread and cultured butter, radishes, cherry tomatoes, cold pan-roasted small potatoes and whole garlic cloves seasoned with rosemary, sheep’s milk cheese, olives, and pickled onions.