One of the fish varieties I find it hard to do without when I am in America is fresh sardines. (The ones sold as such are actually a variety of small, strong-tasting herring.) Often, in Italy, I fry sardines, and they are so irresistible that I rarely manage to get them out of the kitchen. When I prepare them, family and friends crowd around me in the kitchen; by the time they have finished “tasting,” there is nothing left to bring to the table.
The closest I could come in looking for an equivalent was smelts. The taste is very much leaner, but the size and textural quality is not too distant from that of sardines, so that they fry to very nearly the same captivating crispness. Frying them is easy and fast. What takes a little time, until you acquire the knack, is boning and butterflying them, a necessary procedure described in detail below.
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