Marinated Sardines (Sardeles Ladolemono)
I remember the first time I ate marinated sardines. My friend, O’Hara, took me to one of her favorite restaurants in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn. I don’t recall the name of the restaurant, but what I do recall is that we sat along a counter that overlooked the small kitchen where everything was cooked. As we sipped wine, we ordered various dishes including Bruschetta with marinated sardines. I was already feeling inspired by watching the chefs do their thing in the kitchen, but then also tasting the saltiness of the sardines on top of the rich, buttery crunch of the bread and with the lovely, fresh, garlicky taste of the marinade…well, I was in heaven. So when I saw this recipe for marinated sardines in my Saveur magazine, I was really excited to try it out.
The key to this recipe is first starting off with good, fresh sardines–not the kind in the cans. I headed to my neighborhood fish market, where I found some beautiful sardines. I then had the fishmonger clean the fish for me (there is no need for you to have to deal with that mess if they can do it for you!). When I brought them home, I began the process for the recipe.
The first step involved me removing the spine from the fish. This was a bit more timely than I had expected. If you can get your fishmonger to do that for you as well, I recommend it. Otherwise, make sure you have a pairing knife with a good, pointed end. You will need that point to navigate the knife between the bones and meat. Once this process is done, it is all easy from there.
I had to wait patiently for a day to let the marinade do its thing. This works like a ceviche in that the acids in the lemon juice (and don’t you dare use anything but fresh lemon juice for this) cooks the fish. Meanwhile, the flavors in the olive oil and garlic weave themselves into the fish as well. Altogether, this makes for a really nice dish with lots of flavor.
So here is the recipe, adapted from Saveur magazine.
- 12 sardines , cleaned
- 12 tbsp white wine vinegar
- Salt, to taste
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Pepper, to taste
- Cut off the heads and fins on “tail-ends” of the sardines. Then take a pairing knife and carefully remove the spines. As you complete each fish, rinse it first with water and then pour a tbsp of white wine vinegar into the body and massage it in. Drain and then sprinkle some salt into the cavity. Place the fillet in a small bowl. Repeat with the remaining sardines.
- In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.
- Drain the sardines and spread them flat in a 8″ x 8″ container (if you do not have a containers this size, note that it is better to go smaller than larger so that the marinade will cover the fish). Pour the marinade over the sardines and work it into the fish.
- Cover the container and refrigerate it overnight. Periodically, re-work the marinade into the fish and flip them over (a few times is enough).
- The sardines are ready once they look cooked (i.e., the meat should be opaque).
- Serve with bread.