Thursday, March 22, 2007

Portuguese Sardines and Bean Salad

Ok, so I bit half of one sardine. But they were so good that I couldn't help stopping and taking a picture. What a lunch! And I have a really easy recipe for you guys this time. Find a can of good Portuguese sardines in olive oil. Open the can and enjoy :)

Now that the weather is nicer, my daily exercise is a walk to a little grocery store in the nearby Huron Village in Cambridge. When I shop for classes, I still have to drive to Whole Foods, but when I just shop for us, I love walking to Fresh Pond Market. I never know what I am going to cook until I start wondering the 3 little isles of this neighborhood grocer. It's so small, yet so full of great food -- my daily culinary inspiration in a nutshell. The other day, I was wondering what to get for lunch when I ended up in their canned fish section. How about sardines? I saw a couple of different brands and out of curiosity decided to get the most expensive one, just to see if it was worth it. $2.69 might seem like a lot for a 4 oz can, but when you take into account that it was the most expensive part of my lunch, it's not bad at all.

I tossed some beans with onion, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Then I opened my little can. These were the biggest canned sardines I've ever seen. There were only 4 of these huge, fat, glistening fishies in the can. And they were outrageously good!

Now can I ask a stupid question? How do they cook sardines long enough to get their bones completely soft without drying them out? I love grilled fresh sardines, but it's so hard to de-bone them completely before eating. I can easily butterfly them by removing the back bone, but the little pin bones are a major pain to remove and no matter how hard I try, there are always some left. Now this might be a crazy idea, but has anyone tried grilling canned sardines -- just for a minute on each side to give them a little smokiness and warm them up?


Anonymous said...

Hi Helen:

I wouldn't dare pitch my knowledge of fish against yours, but are you sure you need to completely de-bone even fresh sardines? I thought they were naturally soft-boned fish, and that removing the backbone was enough.

On a side note, that shouldn't be what happens to canned sardines, but carpione seems to be pretty effective at softening fishbones. I suppose it's the vinegar.

Helen said...

Hi Giacomo,

The carpione method seems interesting. I've never heard about it. I googled for it, but can't seem to get info beyond that it's fish fried in oil and then marinated for about a week in vinegar. Which region of Italy is it from? Have you ever tried making it?

About fresh sardines. I actually love them grilled and don't mind the little pin bones that are really hard to remove. But my husband likes his fish really and truly deboned. So I was looking for a sardines recipe that both of us can enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Maybe you have never heard of carpione because you would call it escabeche, scapece, saor, or possibly something else again.
The idea is too good and too old, so everyone will claim it is originally from their region ... But in Piedmont it is called carpione, which is also the name of a (now very rare) freshwater fish.

Anyway, it is exactly something fried and then marinated -- though typically for much less than a week.
Beyond fish, zucchini and thin cuts of breaded pork or veal are also usual in my own experience.
The marinade is vinegar-based, but it would not be interesting if it were vinegar alone ... As usual with these things, everyone has a personal marinade.
I have not done it myself, but my mother does it reasonably often in the summer.

Helen said...

Oh yes, I've heard of escabeche, though have never tried it before. I'll check James Peterson's Fish book for the basic technique. Thanks again for this great idea!

Anonymous said...

Our favorite fish purveyor has fresh sardines right now... I'm definitely going to have to pick some up and try this!

Anonymous said...

I had this dish with some manchego cheese, parma ham, and a crusty french loaf, and it was a lovely and delicious spring lunch. Thanks!

adele said...

I haven't grilled canned sardines, but I have popped them under the broiler to warm them up for sardine pasta. It works quite well.

Nadira said...

I'm posting a year late, but I have grilled canned sardines! (Where grilled=broiled, which is usually how I see the term used.) I bought a portuguese brand packed in hot sauce at Star and broiled them in the toaster oven until the sauce caramelized. They were *delicious*, and the flavor was reminiscent of chicken wings. (The REAL kind that you get in Buffalo, where the sauce is cooked onto perfectly crispy skin, not the soggy, astringent, breaded stuff you get around here.)