Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I've been reading a lot about fresh sardines this summer - they seem to be in all the magazines I subscribe to. I like most fish, even the kind of sardines that come packed cheek-by-jowl in a can that opens with a key, but I had never had any fresh ones, so when they appeared at my local market, I was tempted.

These little fish are about 6-8 inches long and really quite beautiful, silvery on the undersides and bright, ocean blue with darker blue spots on the top. I purchased about half a pound, figuring there'd be some waste when I removed the heads.

What I didn't realize was that my sardines had not been cleaned, either. Eeek.

A quick search on the internet showed that some people cook them whole, guts and all, and eat them like corn on the cob, grasping head and tail and nibbling along the sides. I somehow knew that wasn't going to fly in my house; My Beloved is a strong trencherman but he does have his limits and, truth be told, I couldn't face them with heads on, much less with guts in. So, in addition to having to remove heads, I sharpened my paring knife, bellied up to the sink, took a deep breath and began the nasty chore of cleaning sardines.

I don't recommend it. Ask your fishmonger to do it for you. Next time, I will definitely ask for help first.

A few tips: Remove all your rings first. Clean the fish hours before you plan to eat them, giving yourself time to recover your appetite.
The best way to remove the fishy odor from your hands is to wash them in dishwashing liquid after rubbing them with lemon juice. Keep the sardines refrigerated while you lie down with a glass of wine and a diverting book. When you feel your appetite has returned, light the barbecue and set the table.

Tomorrow, I'll give you the recipe - today, you wouldn't appreciate it anyway.



Blogger Kailyn said...

I of the cast iron stomach feel queasy after reading this. Unfortunately I'm at work so I can't lie down. Hopefully the tea will work.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009  
Blogger namastenancy said...

Once again, you prove that you are a more adventurous cook than me. I remember this well from my days of living in Italy. They don't clean the fish for you and as my ex-husband's family lived in Venice (as well as Florence), fish was often on the menu. I sort of got used to it as I was learning the family business of running a pensione but sardines! No Thank You! But I can tell you that cleaning out a rabbit innards is worse than fish (or it was for me!). His family made a sauce for polenta that had rabbit as a main ingredient. It was years before I could face rabbit again.
I'm still not a big fish eater - it's got to be mild, it's got to be cleaned by somebody else and no clams, oysters or strong smelling or tasting fish need apply. However, if SOMEBODY else cleaned the tiny fishes, I liked them rolled in seasoned flour and quickly fried in olive oil - garnish with lemons and parsley and you've got a classical dish. But somebody else has to clean the darn things and take out the trash!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009  
Blogger Greg said...

Oh no not me! I try to be adventurous but sardines are out of my league.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009  
Blogger denise said...

My dad used to catch and clean some pretty delicious fish, but I'm not quite as talented. We are spoiled and are used to buying clean fish. We had a pretty amusing evening after buying a whole fish during our honeymoon on Salina (Italian island off the coast of Sicily). An unproductive, but entertaining memory...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Very brave, Zoomie. I'm so pleased it didn't cause you to bail out on the sardines entirely.
(What store did you buy them from?)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009  
Blogger dancingmorganmouse said...

Mr Brown does the fish de-gutting task at our house, and dismembering chickens too. He used to handle raw sausages for me too but I can do that myself now!
I have a trick for you though, best way to get fish/onion/garlic smell off your hands - wet them and rub them all over your stainless steel sink! It actually works, can't say why but just roll with it!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009  
Blogger Chilebrown said...

I got a chuckle about your dilema cleaning fish. Poor little Zoomie! I think you should buy your fish somewhere else. There should have been NO fishy smell on your hands Fresh fish should not have a bad odor.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Kailyn, I felt the same - a little on the queasy side.

Nancy, rabbits, huh? 'Way out of my league! But, next time I buy sardines, I'm going to try your preparation - sounds yummy.

Greg, they were very nearly out of mine, too, but perseverance paid off.

Denise, Salina... oh, that sounds so romantic!

Cookiecrumb, I bought them at Andronico's in Berkeley. Next time, I'll say airly, "Would you clean six of those for me while I finish my shopping, please?" :-)

Morgan, I'm fascinated by the stainless steel sink trick - might have to go get some additional sardines, just to try it out.

Chilebrown, thanks for the sympathy. These little guys just _are_ aromatic - they were very fresh, just pleasantly stinky. :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home