Broiled Sardines w/ Dill and Blood Orange

Some foods are better in theory than on the plate. Homemade tongue, for instance. I like a good tongue sandwich once in a while, but I’ve made it at home, and each time, as if struck by amnesia, I forget my previous efforts and the accompanying mild revulsion. It’s one thing to sit at Barney Greengrass making your way through excessive pickle piles, and be handed a delicious tongue sandwich with mustard on rye. It’s quite another to simmer the thing at home, chill it, and stare at it in the fridge, testing your nerves, daring you even to touch it.

I’ve often found sardines to be a better concept than actual food. They convey images of Mediterranean beach grills, smoldering embers, and olives. But they’re often extremely fishy. This past summer, blinded by a Mediterranean haze, I bought a handful and threw them on the grill, only to be disappointed by their intense flavor.

That oiliness, however, is also the upside to a sardine. The fat and oil allow the fish to char, creating a beautiful, smoky, crust to offset the fishiness. Get a little acid and herb into the flesh and they’re even milder. They’re also great in a sandwich. So is tongue, by the way, as long as someone else makes it.

Broiled Sardines w/ Dill and Blood Orange

Serves 2 as an appetizer

1 blood orange, sliced paper thin, each slice halved to fit inside the fish
1 small handful dill, coarsely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns, ground finely
8 sardines, cleaned
¼ cup olive oil

  1. In a small bowl mix the dill and lemon zest. Stuff the sardines with the mixture and blood orange slices. Lay on a baking sheet, season with salt and the Szechuan peppercorns. Drizzle all over with the oil and shake the tray to gently roll in the oil.
  2. Broil about 2 minutes per side, or until nicely colored. Eat immediately.

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