Five Recipes for This Year's Grunion Run
Edwin posted earlier about the grunion run expected for this weekend. If you've got a California fishing license, you can take your grunion home with you--no limit, but don't take more than you can use. They're tiny, but they're edible--and even tasty. The only grunion recipe available around the Internet seems to be a green bean and grunion casserole... so here are five other ideas for what to do with them.
1. Make fish sauce out of them
Get a clear glass jar with a spigot on the bottom, like a lemonade jar, but one that can be made airtight. Weigh out 2 parts of kosher salt for every 5 parts of fish (so if you have 10 pounds of grunion, you'll need 4 pounds of salt). Layer the fish and salt in the jar, starting and ending with salt. Place cheesecloth or a clean, old t-shirt on top and weight it down with clean rocks or a paving stone, cover, and leave in a sunny spot for six to nine months. Draw off the fish sauce through the spigot, filtering through cheesecloth or another clean cloth to get rid of any solids.
2. Fry them
Slit the grunion down the side and remove the guts; remove the head if you like. Crust the fish in flour, then in beaten egg, then in cornmeal, and fry until crisp. Like with all fried, oily fish, eat them with a tart salad to cut the richness. Arugula and grapefruit, or avocado and tart orange.
3. Grill them
Grunion can be treated like sardines--which, as all southern Europeans know, taste best grilled simply. Gut the fish and cut out the head and tail--you can try removing the bones if you want--and rub with olive oil. Grill for a very short amount of time on a very hot fire, and then squeeze a lemon on and sprinkle with fresh oregano. Enjoy with ouzo, or a glass of white wine, or perhaps a fragrant glass of retsina.
4. Pickle them
Pickled herring? Please. Herring isn't native. Pickled grunion, on the other hand--just combine equal parts water and vinegar, and season with dill, garlic, bayleaf, and allspice, and bring to a boil. Add onions and sugar to taste. Put the gutted, headed, tailed grunion in a heatproof jar and pour over the pickling brine. Let it sit for a week, then stir in a nice dollop of crème fraîche (or sour cream) before serving.
5. Make tacos out of them
You'll need to fillet the fish, which can be kind of fiddly since they're small, but if you are up to the challenge, lay the fillets in a dish and cover with a mild chile sauce--if you're feeling lazy, El Pato sauce straight from the yellow can will work--and bake at 300ºF until the fish are cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Then put them into tortillas and dress as you like.
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