Thursday, December 13, 2007

what to do with sardines

My friends, I sympathize. It is a tough situation to be in when one encounters a fish counter with fish that not only catches your eye, but actually makes you wishyou knew just what to do with some of those beautiful specimens. And sardines can be particularly eye-catching, their silvery skins shining out from their icy bed like fabric on a haute couture evening gown.

And I want to assure you that sardines are as delicious as they look, and very easy to prepare. Here is how to handle them, from start to finish.

If the sardines are 5-6 inches long, choose 2-3 sardines per person, being sure that the fish have good, clear eyes. If they have not been descaled, all the better, as the scales have been protecting the very delicate flesh in the fish’s transit to market, as they will on your way home.

Once home, arrange the fish and a knife next to the sink (which you have washed well). A small, serrated paring knife is perfect for this job. Hold a fish in your palm with the head pointing toward your wrist. Use very light scraping strokes from tail to head to remove the scales from the flesh, then rinse the fish under gently running water and set aside on a plate as you clean the rest.

Now you have to clean out the insides of the sardines, and it could not be easier. Hold a fish in one hand, tail pointing toward your wrist, and simply poke your finger through the belly skin just behind the head and run your finger toward the tail. It’s a little gushy, but all the insides should slide out quite easily. Rinse out the interior gently. Note that the fish still have their heads on. I like to serve them as whole as possible, but if you prefer, go ahead and remove the head now by simply pulling it off. Then open the fish flat in your two hands work your thumbnails under the spine. Once you can grasp the spine between two fingers, carefully pull it out of the body, using your other thumb and forefinger to squeeze the flesh apart from the bones as the come out.

So your sardines are now ready to be seasoned and cooked. There are many ways to prepare sardines, but here’s an easy one I did recently. I made a mixture of parsley, garlic, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper, and smeared some of this inside each fish, and folded them “closed” again. I rolled them then in a mixture of flour and breadcrumbs and fried them in olive oil for about 8 minutes, turning them once and splashing in a little white wine for the last couple of minutes.

It was that simple.


No comments: