Nowhere do I hear the word sustainability mentioned more often than when it comes to the topic of seafood. It is no secret that we are depleting our ocean. According to Paul Greenberg in his TED talk, The four fish we’re overeating and what to eat instead, the majority of Americans stick to these four fish: tuna, salmon, cod and shrimp. The overfishing of these fish put them on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch as ones to avoid yet we eat them anyway. Why? Because most Americans think fish is “gross”.
Unless I am talking to fellow chefs or foodies I usually get a scrunched up face of disgust looking back at me when I mention the word sardines.
Sardines are one of my favorite fish. They have an incredible flavor, are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are, for most of the year, sustainable to fish.
There’s a catch with sardines however. They can be hard to find, they have a very short shelf life and (here’s the part where you scrunch your face up) you have to rip their guts out. To me that is part of the adventure of eating sardines though! It’s a special occasion when I serve up a plate of sardines for Spencer and I at home. It means, I scored and found some Monterey Bay sardines today, I have the time to prepare them and we are getting a treat tonight!
Below is my favorite preparation for sardines. You may never make this but my hope is that maybe the next time you see sardines on a menu it inspires you to order them or at the very least stop all that nose scrunching.
If you are interested in learning more about which fish are the most sustainable to be eating right now check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide and be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Chef tip: Look for wild Pacific Sardines from the U.S. or Canada. Cook them within the first 2 days you buy them.
Seared Sardines with Potatoes and Celery-Herb Salad
*Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
Yield – 2 servings
1 each Fingerling potato, sliced into coins
1 rib Celery, sliced
4 sprigs Parsley, leaves only
2 sprigs Dill, chopped
1/2 a Lemon
Sea Salt & fresh ground black pepper
4 each Fresh Sardines, scaled, gutted, head and tail removed – Ask your fishmonger to do this for you or watch this awesome how-to video
Aleppo pepper (optional)
Cast iron skillet (or other heavy bottom pan)
- Place the sliced fingerling potatoes in a small pot, cover with cold water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender about 10 minutes or so. Strain, toss the potatoes in EVOO and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the celery, parsley leaves, dill, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of EVOO and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Get a cast iron pan hot over high heat.
- Pat the prepared sardines on each side with a paper towel so that they are dry.
- Sprinkle a light layer of salt evenly in the bottom of the hot cast iron pan.
- Place the sardines skin side down in the pan atop the salt (do not add any oil to the pan).
- While the sardines are searing on the skin side, season the flesh side with salt and pepper.
- After about 30 seconds flip the sardines over with a fish spatula and sear them on the other side about 30 seconds. You are looking for crispy golden brown skin and just barely cooked fish.
- Transfer the sardines to a paper towel with a fish spatula.
- Divide the fingerling potato coins on the bottom of two serving plates.
- Place two sardines on each plate over the potatoes.
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice over each sardine and top with the celery-herb salad.
- Sprinkle aleppo pepper evenly over each dish if desired for a subtle spicy smoky flavor.
- Enjoy with a glass of crisp, cold white wine!