Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dinner a la Mama Lucy

There's a family tradition my Mom still upholds which is when it is your birthday, you get to pick anything you want for dinner and she will make it. I am in my thirties now, but thankfully this tradition lives on!
There have been some years I requested gnocchi, some years meatball soup and other years seafood feasts and other elaborate dishes. But this year, I craved something she hasn't made in years and I was itching for it......Smelts! Odd, I know, but I remember these little fish that were breaded and fried and when you opened them you had to take the tiny little bones out. For some odd reason, I loved doing this as a child and maybe in some sort of mid life nostalgic phase needed to have these again! Glen thought it was so odd. My sisters heard about it and thought I was nuts. They said "Why would you pick smelts of all things?" They were not invited, so I didn't really care.
The week preceeding my dinner, I spoke about them all the time. I would call my Mom and ask her "Did you find them?" Or I'd occasionally yell out 'Smelts!' in the car with Glen. Finally, the night came and I could hardly contain my excitement. We sat down to one of the best, most comforting and delicious dinners I've had in ages.

Mama Lucy totally outdid herself and mixed up her traditional cooking with a little Ina! We started with Ina's Penne with 5 Cheeses which is baked and creamy and hard to stop eating. Here is the recipe and photo.

Next came the Smelts. A platter of them along with a platter of what else? Crunchy Meat made with Veal and Chicken fillets, of course.
The Smelts were delicious. They were exactly how I remembered them and apparently very easy to make. You can buy them fresh or frozen, and as long as you buy them cleaned they are very easy to prepare. Heads and tails should be removed. Basically here's what you do:

Dust smelts in white flour (dip in a bowl, or toss in a bag to lightly coat them).
Dip them in beaten eggs.
Dip them in a bowl of breadcrumbs seasoned with oregano, parsley, salt and pepper.
Fry in vegetable oil until lightly browned and cooked through. Drain on some paper towels and pile them on platter.

It's basically the same way you cook Crunchy Meat.

Mama Lucy served it with fresh Italian Bread, Broccoli in Oil & Vinegar and her usual Green Salad. Fresh slices of cantaloupe followed, and then for dessert.........

Ina's Pear Clafouti from the Barefoot in Paris book. You can find the recipe here if you like.

I ate so much and happily watched Camden ripping the little bones out of the fish. We left with a huge bag of leftovers and a new recipe and tradition that I plan on starting in my house.


Charlotte Hume said...

I had never heard of smelts so this will be a new thing for us in London.
We have this birthday tradition as well. Its lovely to read this post.

Lisa said...

Oh, WOW!!! Everything looks fantastic! What a sweetheart your mom is -- and beautiful, too (you look like her!). That is a true feast! Do you eat the smelts plain or dip them in anything? Or maybe w/lemon? Growing up in Michigan, we ate smelts and perch, too.

vonsachsen said...

This was such a nice read! It´s interesting how influenced we are by our childhood memories, including dishes and smells. Those litlle fishys look yummy, but I must admit I would prefer the crunchy meat :) Everything looked delicious though and happy belated birthday to you, Sandy!


Kelly-Jane said...

What a great family dinner :)

annauk said...

The smelts look great!
I think I'll ask my Mom to start this tradition for my next birthday, LOL

Sandy said...

I think the smelts are more of a nostaligic indulgence for me than anything else. We didn' put anything on them, but lemon would be great.
Mom's just have a knack for making you feel taken care of. That's what this night was for me.

Paola said...

What a beautiful feast! I think nothing can beat good, honest home cooking!