This blog is sometimes about fancy food or wine, but mostly it is about food prepared from scratch using high quality fresh ingredients, in such a way that the ingredients shine. During our travels I didn’t do a lot of cooking that was interesting enough to blog about, but these sardines were so fresh that I thought they deserved a post as a prime example of how good something so simple can be. And because there are a few techniques to talk about.
For this you will need very fresh sardines. As sardines are fatty fish, they deteriorate very quickly.
As they are small (and cheap, at least in Spain where I bought this bunch for 2 euros), the fish monger won’t bother to clean them for you. So you have to do it yourself. Look for the anus of the fish on the bottom (it is the small reddish dot).
Insert a knife in that spot, and cut towards the head to open up its belly.
Pull out the innards, including the gills, with your fingers. You can tell from the bright red color of the gills how fresh these were.
Next, rinse the cavity under cold running water. Repeat with the remaining sardines.
Pat the sardines dry with paper towels. There is no olive oil needed to cook these, as they are fatty enough by themselves.
Build a charcoal fire (or have your husband do it for you). Wait until the charcoal turns white, which means that the fire is ready for grilling.
The easiest way to grill sardines (or most other foods) is to use a grill basket. That way you can turn them very easily, all at the same time, and without risk of them getting stuck or picking up burnt flavors from the grate.
Turn the sardines frequently (every 30 seconds or so) so they will cook through before the outside burns. Watch out for flare ups, which will happen because fat will drip from the sardines. It helps to move around on the grill.
Cook them for a couple of minutes per side, until they are just cooked through. Do not overcook them, or they will become dry.
Serve with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and lemon wedges.
This dish is eaten on the coasts of Brittany (France), Spain, and Portugal, and works very well with a fresh dry white from those areas such as a Vinho Verde, Riax Baixas Albariño, or Muscadet.
This recipe doesn’t only look great, it is delicious as well. Soqquadri pasta is filled with ‘deconstructed’ parmiagiana alla melanzane (eggplant, pesto, tomato sauce, mozzarella). Not as simple as the sardines, but it will definitely allow the flavors of the eggplant, pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella to shine.