The smaller the better as far as I'm concerned! If the fish are less than 2 inches long, they don't need to be gutted; from 2-3 inches long, they do, and anything over that is too big if it's a picarel. Whitebait smelt (the smallest smelt) is an acceptable substitute, up to 5-6 inches long, maximum. This is the perfect mMarithes (in Greek: μαρίδες, pronounced mah-REE-thess) recipe.
- 7 to 8 picarel (or small smelt per person for meze, 15-20 per person for main dish)sea salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 1 cup flour (more or less as needed for dredging)
- Oil (for frying)
If the fish are 2 inches long or more (or if using smelt), use a sharp knife and remove stomach and intestines. Do not slice all the way open. If using smelt, scrape off the scales with a knife.
Wash fish well and drain. Combine flour, salt, and pepper on a plate.
In a heavy-bottomed frying pan or skillet, heat 1/3 to 1/2 inch of oil over medium-high heat. Dredge the fish by rolling in flour and shaking off excess, and fry until nicely golden brown on both sides.
Drain on absorbent toweling and serve with lemon wedges.