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. Learning how to prepare and savor the small fish will bring both health and sustainability to our table. Remember, the smaller non-carnivorous fish are lower on the food chain and thus have accumulated less toxins in their bodies ( from eating smaller fish) than the predatory Tuna or Salmon.
In order to prepare any small fish for tapas 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 in the sink and leave them overnight in a shallow bowl 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 helpful but not necessary.
The following morning simply pour off the vinegar and place the filets back in a sealable container completely submerged in good quality olive oil with some sliced garlic and minced parsley to taste . They will keep quite well in your refrigerator for another several days and when you are ready to serve them simply remove them from their oil and top with a nice squeeze of fresh lemon juice, perhaps a pinch of (smoked) salt, and a drizzle more fresh olive oil. That’s it. Now they can be presented nicely on the table beside thick wedges of rustic bread, or garlic toast plus a consortium of accompaniments including: heirloom tomato wedges, roasted new potatoes, sheep’s milk cheese, fresh radishes, cured olives, and pickled onions.