i have guilt.
tiny fish guilt.
for years, i fell victim
to the popular digs -
about tiny fish found
in tiny cans. i'm open to
trying almost anything,
but the opportunity never
presented itself and i was
fine with that.
one day, i had a marinated
white anchovy. my eyes were
opened. from there, i had
anchovies on pizza, in pasta
and sauteed with cauliflower. i was
the first one to poke my chopsticks
into the small bowls of even teenier
fish set on the table at a korean
restaurant and i willed myself
to try these bite-size crabs. i loved them.
but, still, until three months ago,
sardines were not really part of my life.
then, i ordered them, fresh and grilled, at a restaurant
when nothing else on the menu seemed
appealing. there were five, all with mini bones
to be removed from the admittedly flavorful flesh,
which i was not crazy about.
a month later, when i took larry
to degustation for his amazing birthday dinner,
one of the 10 courses featured sardines.
on one side of the plate was a
freshly cured curl, the other side was
fried and served with pickled onions. it
was one of my favorite dishes of the night.
although, yes, i know there is a difference
between fresh sardines and canned,
in my life, that seemed like the next
most practical leap -
so i started researching them
and buying them: one layer, two layer,
skinless and boneless, whole, packed in oil,
packed in spring water.
(i still haven't ventured
into the tomato sauce, pepper or mustard
i realized that i like them all,
but if I was forced to tell you about one,
it would have to be the two layer sardines,
packed in olive oil, which for the effort of
opening the can, rewards you with two layers
of fish, from head to tail. trust me - i'm
the person who vowed to never again buy
canned salmon and attempt salmon cakes
after realizing what it meant to remove
the bones from the can. this is different -
the bones are so tiny and tender, that
i didn't even realize they're there. and,
if you are someone who does not like
seeing the entire fish looking back at you,
don't worry - once mashed,
nothing is recognizable.
they are flavorful, but not insultingly so,
much closer to tuna in harshness,
than ultra briny anchovies.
so, i started adding them to different
things, like pasta and salads.
and i started making sandwiches,
like this one,
with capers and mustard,
and spicy-sweet peppadews,
which i hope you try.
but, i will say this.
i'm fully aware that if the idea of opening a can
and seeing these sardines stare back at you,
finding out there are anchovies in your salad dressing
or dried shrimp in your thai food will upset you,
this sandwich is not for you.
this is not a recipe about conversion
or arm twisting.
it's a recipe about another choice for people
who already are fans - or maybe for those like
me: willing, but in need of a push.
sardine and peppadew sandwich
i've made this with a couple different types of canned sardines, which frankly, have all worked. so, feel free to use whatever you have on hand. but, if you're going out and shopping for them, i'm partial to the two layer in olive oil, which surprisingly boast less fat than the sister can packed in spring water. served on a baguette, it's a hearty sandwich appropriate for a fast or home-alone dinner, but on sliced bread, would be great for lunch. also, i think it's fair to say that this is one of those guideline recipes - adjust to suit your taste.
1 large juicy lemon, halved
1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
3 tins sardines
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 heaping tablespoon capers, drained
salt and pepper
6-8 peppadews, sliced
mayonnaise, if you like that kind of thing
1 baguette, ends trimmed or 6-8 slices bread (depending on how packed you like your sandwiches
squeeze lemon juice into small mixing bowl. stir in shallots. let sit 20 minutes.
remove sardines from tins and add to bowl (i would refrain from simply overturning the tins into the bowl - you will end up with a lot of oil). using fork, mash sardines. stir in dijon mustard and capers. add salt and pepper to taste. adjust seasonings.
slice baguette in half or place bread slices on clean surface. spread with a thin layer of mayonnaise, if desired. divide sardine mixture evenly among bread slices or bottom layer of baguette. top with peppadews. cut baguette into four even pieces.