Thursday, January 31, 2008

What to do with Sardines, Part 2

Ok. So. Sardines. Leftover sardines. Or perhaps, simply a few sardines, not enough to make a main dish by themselves. Perhaps it’s time for Sunday night dinner, and to be honest, the work week looms, it’s been a busy weekend, and something simple and tasty is needed. A Sicilian approach seems appropriate, something any hungry fisherman might throw together. Any garlic left? A few small cloves bouncing around behind the salt pot. In the fridge, a sorry display of fading parsley, but still serviceable, enough good-looking sprigs remaining for our purposes. Raisins hiding in the back of the baking cupboard, good and dry. Hard, in fact. Break out a handful and put them in a bowl with some hot water and let them soften.

Now the pasta water goes on the fire, well salted.

You have scraped the scales off the fish. No? Go ahead and do that , and scoop out the innards with your forefinger (see What to do with Sardines, Part 1) and arrange the fish, otherwise whole, in an oiled pan in a single layer, and sprinkle some salt and pepper inside each. Splash a little white wine in the pan and cook the fish for about 8 to 10 minutes over a brisk flame. Then remove the fish from the pan to a plate and let them cool a bit.

Meanwhile, some bread, a few days old. Slice it up thinly (about two slices per person) and dry them out in the toaster, or in a pan on the stove, and break them down into crumbs. They don’t have to be fine crumbs. If you have some ready crumbs already available instead, those will do nicely.

Once the sardines are cool enough to handle, remove the meat of the fillets into a mixing bowl, and discard the heads, spines and any little fins. Chop the garlic with the parsley, as much or as little as you like, and mix this into the sardines with half the breadcrumbs, some salt and pepper, and moisten all this with some olive oil, extra-virgin if possible. What happened to that little jar of pine nuts? Just a couple of tablespoons worth. In they go.

Raisins? Good and soft now, so they get drained and mixed in, too.

Pasta. Penne? Fine. Spaghetti? That will do. Drain it, and toss it well with the sardine mixture. Taste a noodle for salt and correct it if needed. Serve and pass the remaining bread crumbs separately, instead of cheese. No cheese for this dish. Some dry Sicilian or Campanian white, like a Fiano, would go well, or maybe a Cannonau, or a light Calabrian red like a Ciró, or if all else fails, a Nero d’Avola.

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