Any number of small fish varieties can be cleaned and preserved to prepare homemade Tapas. Visit your local fish monger to find a clear-eyed candidate. Anchovies, sardines, sprats and other small fish varieties all make a healthy and sustainable Seafood Choice. Unlike the larger carnivorous fish such as Salmon or Tuna, these smaller species haven’t accumulated the same levels of heavy metals and toxins in their bodies as fish that consume smaller prey in their diet. By eating lower on the fish-food chain you will also deplete less of the ocean’s total biomass with each bite.
In Spain, the most common fish variety used for tapas are Boquerones, or “White Anchovies”. Though Boquerones can often be found pre-cleaned, salted, and refreigerated at specialty food shops, using fresh fish always provides in a more subtle and toothsome Tapa.
So, once you have a few anchovies, sprats, sardines, herrings, or other small-fish in hand, start by rinsing them off carefully at your sink. Next, make a small slit along the underside of the belly in order to remove, and discard the innards.
With the innards removed, rinse the fish again and then lay it out on a clean chopping board.The entirety of the backbone can now be removed in one fell swoop by holding the fish up slightly by the tail, carefully placing the knife under the spine at the tail end, and then slowly sliding the knife away from you and upwards towards the head.
With the spine and head removed, you can now check the filet carefully with your fingers in order to find and discard any small bones that remain. Once fully deboned, rinse the flesh once more, dry it off, and then submerge the filet in white wine vinegar in a shallow bowl of glass, ceramic, or pyrex.
Leave the submerged fish overnight in your refrigerator. The vinegar will “cook”s the fish with its acidity and even soften any tiny bones you may have missed when cleaning. Changing the vinegar once during the night is a nice touch, but is not absolutely necessary.
The following morning pour off the vinegar and place the marinated fish in a large mason jar along with: thinkly sliced garlic, onions, fennel, carrots, loosely chopped herbs of your choice such as parsley, sage, and marjoram. Season modestly with salt, white pepper, and lemon juice. Mix the fish, herbs and spices together in the jar and then immerse everythingn completely in good olive oil. Return the jar to the refrigerator where it will keep for the next few days, getting more flavorful each day.
When you are ready to plate the fish, add a fresh squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and a final drizzle of fresh olive oil. Serve with wines of your choice, thick-crusted toasts, cultured butter, varieties of small fresh garden radishes such as French Breakfast, cherry tomatoes, cold pan-roasted fingerling potatoes, baked garlic cloves seasoned with rosemary, cured olives, and pickled onions.