2 pounds (about 12) smelts (2 to 5 inches long), gutted, fins removed
2 cups milk
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs (we like panko)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, plus extra to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into 6 pieces
Rinse smelts thoroughly, pat dry, and place in a medium-size bowl. Add milk and toss gently to coat. In a large shallow bowl (a pie tin works great), combine breadcrumbs, cornmeal, salt, and pepper. Roll smelts in breadcrumb mixture and press gently until well coated.
Into a large cast-iron skillet, pour a thin layer of vegetable oil, coating the bottom of the pan; heat on medium-high. Add smelts, 4 or 5 at a time; don't overcrowd the pan. Fry 3 to 4 minutes per side, until lightly browned and cooked through. Season to taste with salt.
Spoon a few tablespoons of Cucumber Salad onto a serving plate. Crisscross two smelts on top of salad. Repeat with the rest of the salad and smelts. Squeeze lemon over fish and serve while still warm.
1 medium-size English cucumber (seedless)
1/2 cup drained plain yogurt (or use sour cream or crème fraîche)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Peel cucumber and slice it thinly. Place in a sieve to drain for about 10 minutes. Rinse, pat dry, and place in a medium-size bowl. Add yogurt, lemon juice, oil, and chopped shallot; stir well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.