In Spain we visited the city of Logroño, which is in the Rioja wine region but also famous for its tapas scene. One of my favorite tapas I tried there was smoked sardines (served on toast with roasted bell pepper). It turns out that it is pretty simple and quick to smoke sardines at home, and the best part is that you don’t need any special equipment for it. The hardest part is filleting the sardines, so if you let your fishmonger do that it will be really simple.
Another fun part is that it only takes about 10 minutes to do the actual smoking and it looks quite spectacular, so you can do it in front of your duly impressed guests. The sardines are briefly cured in salt beforehand, and then smoked by enclosing them under a bowl (a glass bowl is best for the visual effect) together with a smoldering branch of rosemary. The result is delicious cold smoked sardines with an elegant smoky flavor and a nice firm texture. Here’s how you can make them at home, too.
sardine fillets, make sure to remove all the scales, it is best if they have been frozen to kill any parasites (as they will not be cooked but only cured and smoked)
extra virgin olive oil, for serving or storing
Fillet the sardines and make sure to remove all the scales.
Mix salt with half the weight of sugar. For 8 sardines (16 fillets) I used 200 grams (1/2 cup table salt, more if it is flaky salt) of salt and 100 grams (1/2 cup) of sugar.
Put a thin layer of the salt and sugar mixture in a container.
Cover with a layer of sardine fillets, skin side down, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and grated lemon zest.
Cover with another layer of salt. Add more layers if needed.
Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes to 1 hour, not more. As the sardine fillets are thin, this is enough time to cure them all the way through. If you leave them in longer, they will become tough.
Rinse the sardines under cold running water to remove the salt.
Pat them dry with paper towels.
A gratuitous cured sardines shot.
Place the sardines in a single layer, skin side down, on some aluminum foil. Place a branch of rosemary next to it and ignite it.
The ignition is easiest with a blow torch.
Cover the rosemary and sardines with a bowl; a transparent one is best for the visual effect. If there is not enough smoke, lift the bowl and incinerate the rosemary a bit more.
Remove the bowl. The sardines are now ready to be served.
Drizzle with some good quality extra virgin olive oil. If you’re going to store them, it is also a good idea to cover them olive oil to prevent oxidation.
Bucatini alle cipolle is a very simple pasta dish that makes the onions shine by cooking them slowly over low heat. A bit of pancetta is added for additional flavor. The onions are cooked until they are so soft and sweet that they become a sauce.