Hey guys, I have a short and sweet post for you today featuring one of my favorite little fishies of all time: sardines. Up until a few years ago, I had dismissed any kind of fish often found in cans as little more than cat food. Anchovies, sardines, pickled herring, even tuna. Perhaps it was a lingering sense of embarrassment from school lunches where anything smellier than a ham and cheese sandwich elicited a chorus of "eww" and "gross" from other children, and where bringing in something like tuna fish ensured you would be the cafeteria outcast. As trivial as those past experiences seem now, they were clearly wounds that cut deep.
These days, I say screw what other people think. When I finally tried all of the aforementioned fish, it was love at first taste, I'm never going back. So here is a simple and delicious recipe for sardines that highlight their natural, briny flavor. They are lightly cured in a bright mixture of salt, sugar, and lemon zest then quickly pan fried to enhance their tender texture. Because the curing preserves them slightly, they'll keep in the fridge for up to a week if you don't finish them immediately.
Let's consider this recipe my love ballad for fish of all types, we'll forget about childhood pettiness and start anew. Hope you all enjoy these sardines as much as I do!
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Serves 6(ish) as an appetizer.
These sardines can be used in a variety of different ways. I like to serve them with crusty bread and butter after they are freshly fried. They also keep well in the fridge for up to a week, during which time you can throw them in pasta, use them in a sandwich, or have them as a snack.
2 lbs fresh, whole sardines, scaled and gutted
3 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
high heat oil, such as canola or grapeseed, for frying
lemon wedges, olive oil, and fresh herbs for serving
Rinse the sardines and pat dry with paper towels. Combine sea salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Sprinkle a thin layer of the salt mixture on the bottom of a large platter. Place the sardines on the same platter in one layer and sprinkle the remaining salt evenly over them.
Cover with plastic and let the sardines cure in the fridge for a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 24 hours.
When you are ready to fry, set a wire cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Remove any excess salt from the sardines and pat them dry again. Combine the rice flour and all-purpose flour in a medium mixing bowl and coat each sardine in the flour mixture.
In a large cast iron pan, heat 1/4 inch of oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches to prevent overcrowding, fry the sardines for 2 minutes on each side for a total of 4 minutes. As you finish each batch, transfer them to the wire rack to drain.
Once you have finished frying, transfer sardines to a platter and serve with fresh herbs, olive oil, and lemon wedges.