Canned Sardines, Three Ways (Reader Question)

Despite having already posted a simple and delicious canned sardine preparation in my brunch article, I continue to receive some variation on the following question from many of you:

I always hear how healthy sardines are and how delicious canned ones can be, so I sprung for a six pack of good ones. After my first two cans, I’m already bored of them. I tried using them in salads, but they seem to taste super fishy with everything. I really want to eat them because they’re healthy and sustainable, so can you please do an article on easy canned sardine recipes?

I would love to. First, a couple of tips when purchasing sardines, though. Personally, I look for four basic items on the package when searching for sardines:

  • Wild and sustainably caught;
  • Fully cooked and deboned;
  • Stored in extra virgin olive oil;
  • BPA free packaging.

When tasting the sardines themselves, a lot is left to personal preference, no doubt, but I suggest you look for the following:

  • Mild briney saltiness;
  • Medium firm, meaty texture;
  • Filets with enough structure to fully retain their shape after removal from can;
  • Clean smell and taste with minimal fishiness and no hint of rancidity;
  • Assertive umami;
  • Substantial richness between natural fats and added high quality olive oil.

My pick for inexpensive maker is Seasons and if you want to really splurge, Ortiz.

One big problem often encountered with sardines is with the fishy taste. This is, in part, due to the quality of the maker and the age of the can, but can also be due to what you pair with your sardines. In general, bright, acidic, fresh ingredients go best with sardines. Sardines are also less fishy tasting at room temperature or chilled than they are hot. Keep this in mind when coming up with your own preparations.

To get you started, though, here are three easy ones of my own.

Have a question? Ask me anything!

The Recipes

Spanish-Style Roasted Corn Salad with Sardines — Four Servings

IMG_5675

Ingredients

2 cans high quality, boneless and skinless salted sardines in extra virgin olive oil
1 medium ear sweetcorn (standard heirloom varieties preferred over more sugar-concentrated varietals), husked with shank retained
Half of a medium red bell pepper, diced to quarter inch

25 g (about 30 mL or 2 tbsp) California extra virgin olive oil
15 g (about 1 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 g (about 1 tsp) fine garlic powder
1 g (about 0.5 tsp) finely ground smoked Spanish hot paprika
Sea salt

1 large sprig of cilantro, leaves only, rough chopped

Procedure

  1. Carefully open each can of sardines. Bend each open can lenthwise to loosen the sardine filets inside. Carefully, with a fork to scoop, remove each filet of sardine from the can, taking care to keep the filets intact. Place in a bowl and dress each filet with a couple drops of lemon juice each. Set aside.
  2. Over medium flame or in the oven, preheat a cast iron griddle to 225 °C (437 °F), to ensure even heating. Coat corn kernels with a small amount of olive oil and roast directly on the griddle, turning slowly as the corn browns. If kernels begin to char, reduce heat and increase rate of turning. When corn is aromatic and lightly browned on all sides, remove from heat and set aside. When finished, kernels should look glossy, lightly browned but still plump and vibrant in color.
  3. When corn cools slightly, hold over a large bowl to catch the kernels as they fall and cut kernels from the ear, working from the shank side down. Be sure to cut each kernel fully without including any fibrous material from the cob. When complete, be sure to separate the kernels so that none are stuck together.
  4. Combine corn kernels with red bell pepper, garlic powder, paprika powder, remaining lemon juice and olive oil. Fold together to thoroughly integrate. Add sea salt to taste (salad should be only mildly salted, enough to just bring out the savory flavors from the ingredients).
  5. Plate sardines and corn salad, topping with the cilantro. Serve immediately.

French Country-Style Sardines — Four Servings

IMG_5480

Ingredients

For Sardines
2 cans high quality, boneless and skinless salted sardines in extra virgin olive oil
30 g (about 2 tbsp) freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
10 black peppercorns, finely ground
1 large sprig of Italian parsley, leaves and tender stems only, rough chopped
Maldon sea salt

For Accoutrements
2 slices of 1 cm thick freshly baked rustic Italian bread or other refined flour bread, sliced in half lengthwise and toasted to light golden
1 tbsp high quality dijon mustard

Procedure

  1. Carefully open each can of sardines. Bend each open can lenthwise to loosen the sardine filets inside. Carefully, with a fork to scoop, remove each filet of sardine from the can, taking care to keep the filets intact. Place in a bowl and dress with the lemon juice, black pepper and two pinches of Maldon.
  2. Plate sardines, topping with the parsley. Add bread and mustard to the plate and serve immediately.

Japanese Miso-Dressed Sardines — Four Servings

IMG_5681

Ingredients

2 cans high quality, boneless and skinless salted sardines in extra virgin olive oil
1 medium green onion, whites and greens sliced into thin medallions

10 g (about 0.5 tbsp) smooth kome akamiso
5 g (about 1 tsp) rice vinegar
10 g (about 2 tsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 g (a piece approximately 1 cm in diameter and 1 cm thick) fresh ginger, finely minced
10 g (about 2 tsp) neutral oil such as soybean oil or avocado oil
5 g (about 0.5 tsp) mirin
5 g (about 0.5 tsp) dry sake

Procedure

  1. Mix rice vinegar, lemon juice, mirin and sake in a bowl. Add akamiso and dissolve. Add oil and ginger, beat with a small whisk or fork to emulsify. Taste to ensure a balance of acid, sweetness and saltiness. Add small amounts of vinegar, mirin and miso to enhance the acid, sweetness and saltiness balance, respectively, until flavor is well-balanced to your taste. Set aside.
  2. Carefully open each can of sardines. Bend each open can lenthwise to loosen the sardine filets inside. Carefully, with a fork to scoop, remove each filet of sardine from the can, taking care to keep the filets intact. Plate sardines and drizzle with miso dressing. Top with green onions and serve immediately.

Have a question? Ask me anything!

 

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