Grilled Sardines

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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.

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For this you will need very fresh sardines. As sardines are fatty fish, they deteriorate very quickly.

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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).

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Insert a knife in that spot, and cut towards the head to open up its belly.

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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.

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Next, rinse the cavity under cold running water. Repeat with the remaining sardines.

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Pat the sardines dry with paper towels. There is no olive oil needed to cook these, as they are fatty enough by themselves.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cook them for a couple of minutes per side, until they are just cooked through. Do not overcook them, or they will become dry.

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Serve with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and lemon wedges.

Wine pairing

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.

Flashback

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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.

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16 thoughts on “Grilled Sardines

  1. All of this for two euros? Glory be!! You grilled this feast in beautiful [late evening?] sunshine with a glass of wine at hand . . . every bit as memorable as a ‘degustation’ at a ‘3-star’ . . . thank you for allowing us to visit . . .

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  2. Ciao Stefano!!! I love this recipe! Has you probably already known ;-), “food prepared from scratch using high quality fresh ingredients” is absolutely an Italian prerogative! This is why I always enjoy reading recipe for fast, cheap but fresh food… my grandma usually fries sardines and then serve them in stew onions… I will make this different kind of sardines to her next time I’ll go back to Italy (It is kinda hard finding fresh sardines here in Midwest!)

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  3. Since coming home last spring, I’ve been on a hunt for fresh sardines. I’ve yet to find them, although there are plenty of frozen about. While in Italy, I was served sardines a number of ways, grilled being one of them. I really enjoyed them all, hence the hunt. When I fid the — or break down and buy frozen — I’ll be sure to grill a few, They certainly were delicious and prepared just as you’ve done here, Stefan. Don’t gild the lily! 🙂

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