I’ve seldom met a fish I didn’t like. Sure, I like some more than others, but, generally speaking, I’m always happy when fish are on deck. Sardines often get a bad rap. I’ve never had a problem with them. They are Their flavor is strong, but if you’re eating fish, why not embrace its fishiness?
This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is Sardine Rillettes. If you want to whip up a starter for fish-loving friends, this fish spread is an excellent choice.
I made sardines rillettes once before when I was participating in French Fridays with Dorie. Dorie’s recipe was easy, but David Lebovitz’s is even easier: less ingredients to chop.
For his version, canned sardines are pureed with softened butter and cream cheese along with scallions, capers, and a touch of lemon juice. I was lucky to find boneless sardines at Trader Joe’s which made the recipe even simpler.
No guests to share with, but we enjoyed the sardine spread on crackers before dinner all week long. I’m always looking for new appetizers, so I will try to remember this one the next time company is coming.
I think the anticipation of making this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie, Sardines Escabeche, was one of the most-dreaded in the book. While I sympathize with others’ trepidation, I wasn’t bothered by it, because I like fish, even oily fish, and even sardines, In fact, I had a little trouble finding fresh sardines this week and was disappointed to think I wouldn’t get to try it.
The stars aligned and I found sardines at the largest Whole Foods in my area. And, I remembered to ask for them to be cleaned. Last time I bought fresh sardines, I didn’t realize they were whole, guts and all, so had to quickly teach myself to clean them out. Yuck… I hadn’t read the recipe through and didn’t realize they needed to be filleted, so this time around, I learned how to fillet sardines, courtesy of Jamie Oliver. It wasn’t too bad. I’ll take filleting over cleaning any day!
I couldn’t quite imagine what this dish was going to be like as I put it together. The sardine fillets are quickly fried to partially cook them, arranged in a dish, and strewn with thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and sun-dried tomatoes. Then thinly sliced vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, and garlic) are sautéed and then simmered in olive oil, vinegar and spices (and a little bit of ketchup). The hot vegetable mixture is poured over the fish and chilled overnight.
We ate the sardines escabeche with crusty bread for dipping in the flavorful oil and a beet walnut salad on the side — a picnic of sorts.
There was a reverse verdict on this one. Howard really enjoyed it. For me, the fish was just too fishy. It reminded me of pickled herring, which is one of the few fish preparations that I don’t really care for. On the other hand, I loved the oily pickled vegetables. While I doubt I would make this with sardines, I would make the vegetables, or maybe even the bonne idée, using shrimp instead.
To see how the other Doristas made out with their escabeche, check out their links here. You can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table or this similar one on Dorie’s website.