French Fridays with Dorie
Given my fondness for these tiny little herrings, I remain surprised by the polarizing effect of sardines. No doubt I will be astonished again today, this being French Fridays with Dorie and the assignment of the day being sardine escabeche. Witness Dorista after Dorista climbing the walls wishing they could make sardine escabeche sans sardines. You can’t. There is a good reason this recipe is happening during the very last month of this project! My only hope is that most will take a breath and confront their fears, even if they must do so while making grilled cheese sandwiches for their husband’s dinner.
It’s a good thing to love sardines. In fact, the world would be a much better place if there were more sardine lovers on the planet. Not only are they a protein-rich source of Omega 3 and Coenzyme Q10, they are also loaded with calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Even better, being lower on the food chain (small and maturing quickly) means that they are usually an ocean-friendly food choice – a sustainable catch whose fishing won’t negatively affect the environment.
But be honest with me though. When I first said “sardines” were you one of those who winced just a little bit and considered unsubscribing from my RSS feed now that I’m completely unrelatable? I’m sorry. I adore them. So much so, in fact, that my kitchen cupboards are stacked full with dozens of colorful sardine tins. Most were brought home from visited countries touching the Mediterranean, where if not the word’s best sardines are found, you can find sardines in the world’s most colorful tins.
Whenever I eat them straight out of the can I still never fail to recall the colorful French market we handily converted a fresh baguette, a hunk of cheese and a tin of sublime Rödel Sardines into one of the best lunches I have ever had. A respite from a dreary day is a mere pop of the tin and a glass of wine (or several) away. Enjoying sardines this way has been so easy for me that until this week’s Sardine Escabeche appeared on the Friday’s schedule I never thought to prepare my own.
Sardines don’t have to be imported to be good. Domestically available sardines are delicious as well, and I have been known to keep a private stash at work for ‘protein emergencies. (I’m particularly fond of Wild Planet sardines (found at Whole Foods), a California provider specializing in the safe, sustainable fishing methods I like to associate with my sardine eating.) That said, if fresh tasting sardines are what you are looking for, well, then you have to buy them fresh and make them yourself.
Which brings me (finally) back to sardine escabeche. So what is it? While sardine escabeche is a popular French bistro dish it is more usually associated with Spanish tapas. The dish is characterized by its highly vinegared and aromatic marinade that ‘pickles’ the cooked vegetables that the sardines sit in while they cures for a day or two. The dish is very easy to make once you confront your fish handling fears and learn to filet the little suckers.
Will you give them a try?
The original recipe can be found here .
The sardines are best served with plenty of grilled bread (to mop up the delicious marinade oil) and with lemons to squeeze over the top.
This is what you will need:
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour (to dredge the sardines before cooking)
- 1 dozen fresh sardines, filleted with tails removed
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained & cut into slivers
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs of celery, trimmed and sliced thinly
- 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- Lemon for serving
This is how you make it:
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add approximately two tablespoons of the oil. Dredge each fillet both sides in the flour, season with salt and pepper. Slip the sardines into the skillet after the pan and oil are hot. Do not over crowd your pan and cook the sardines in batches if necessary. Cook for two minutes each side. Flour should be lightly browned with the sardine meat just barely cooked through. Transfer cooked sardines to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the oil.
- Arrange the sardines in a gratin dish or glass pan neatly. Be sure to choose a pan large enough to hold all the sardines. Scatter the aromatic herbs and sun dried tomatoes over the sardines.
- Clean the skillet and add two more tablespoons of oil. To the hot pan add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook for ten minutes or until the vegetable are nearly cooked through but not browned. When they are cooked add the remaining olive oil (3/4 cup) to the pan along with the pepper flakes, tomato paste and vinegar. Gently stir with spoon to mix the ingredients while it comes to a simmer. You can adjust the seasoning here with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the hot mixture over the sardines and smooth around if necessary to make sure that everything is covered in oil and evenly distributed.
- Let dish come to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in refrigerator for at least six hours. Overnight is best.
- Serve with lemon wedges and plenty of bread. Sardine escabeche will keep up to three days covered in the refrigerator.
This Sardine Escabeche is an assignment for French Friday’s with Dorie, a cooking group working its way through Dorie Greenspan’s culinary tome “ Around My French Table” . We generally avoid including the recipes in our posts. However, wherever there has been a significant adaptation by me or where the recipe has already been publicly posted by Ms. Greenspan or her publishers or by hundreds of other bloggers, or it is, in fact, not much of a recipe at all but rather a methode , I will either include it here (adapted) or provide a direct link to it. Please feel free to contact me via the link provided on my page if you need any assistance finding a French Friday with Dorie Recipe. You should buy the book though.