I am not a huge flesh eater, but I do love me some Boquerones. Boquerones. Fun to say, isn’t it. My dad uses them for fish bait.
Yup. We are talking Anchovies.
Canadian fishermen buy perfectly edible fish, in order to catch other bigger, perfectly edible fish. Then they invent all kinds of crazy contraptions to drag the poor critters behind a boat with a hook attached. Several hours and a couple hundred dollars later, they can go home with some edible fish.
The hunter-gatherer spirit lives on in Canada.
The Spanish system is much better. Just buy the fish/bait, scratch the whole fishing gig and spend that extra time and money on beer.
Now the trick with boquerones is knowing whether you should eat them whole (head, guts, spine) or pick out the bones. Large specimen make bone picking and head removal mandatory. The little ones go down whole in one bite. But everyone’s bone eating limit is different. It’s tricky business.
The decision revolves around your own, personal grossness/laziness quotient. I go with the gag rule. I start munching the whole shebang from the tail up, but at the first sign of bone gagging I revert to spine removal. If I get to the head before topping my grossness scale, I keep chomping. Otherwise, the heads go in a little pile on the side of the plate.
I skipped charm school on small utensil day.
My father-in-law painstakingly cleaned the heads and guts off this batch for Yago’s benefit. He left the spines in, but they registered just above my gag rule and I had to extract them mid-feed. I didn’t tell F-I-L that at our last boqueron extravaganza Yago grossed out the whole crowd by scavenging rejected fish heads off his neighbour’s plate and downing them in one chomp.
So, if I haven’t thrown you off your appetite with this conversation, and you are ready to dive into boquerones, here is how. Get yourself a bucket of fish bait. Extra points if they are delivered clean by Spanish Grandpa or stolen off the boat of Canadian Grandpa.
Then you toss them in a little flour with a pinch of salt while heating a pan of olive oil. Get that oil sizzling then toss the fish in for a couple of minutes. You are looking for light brown and crisp. Finish it off with a symbolic fat strain on a paper towel. A squeeze of lemon over the whole plate cuts the grease nicely.
Then you dig into your pile of greasy little fish.
Tossing back some boquerones, especially if you aren’t the type to worry about a few heads, guts or bones, is a finger food affair. Boquerones are also a group activity. One plate in the center, every man for himself. If your grossness quotient is too high you just aren’t going to have a good time. All that time-consuming fork fiddling means you’ll have clean fingers but an empty belly.
A good boqueron event looks like feeding time at Sea World.
“Watch out there, Papi. You could lose a finger.”
Just keep an eye on that gag rule. But if you push your luck, beer is your friend.