Chef’s Night Off – Sardines?

When I was a kid, the older grown-ups (the ones that still spoke Italian at home) considered sardines a special treat that they would relish when we kids weren’t around to make faces and sounds of disgust for the oily, strong smelling delicacies.

Now, sardines, like so many of the treats the older generation held so dear such as tripe, pigs’ feet, and organ meats of all varieties, are making their way onto the culinary main stage. They are one of the most popular items on the menu at our restaurant L’Ecole when we put them on the menu, and they are getting prime treatment in so many other fantastic NYC restaurants such as Aldea (my current favorite for sardines), Prune, and Peasant.

Last month I posted about a picnic dinner at a Celebrate Brooklyn concert at which we had some amazing home-cured sardines. I had a few requests for the recipe which my friend Hayley posted in a comment on another post.

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Just in case you didn’t get it, here it is (in a more user-friendly format) – just in time for your own end of summer picnics!

Hayley’s Sardine Recipe:

In true Italian style, there are no amounts for this recipe… trust your senses


Equal parts of Piment d’Espelette (hot pepper with a smoky paprika’esque quality from the Basque region on the border of France and Spain) and Curry powder (best quality possible)

with approximately 1/2 part kosher salt

Combine the dry cure ingredients and rub on boneless fillets of sardine. Allow to sit for approximately 8 to 10 minutes until the flesh begins to turn opaque.  Brush the cure off the fillets and transfer them to a mixing bowl.


Peels from lemon(s) and orange(s) (colored part only)

Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

 Fresh basil leaves, torn

Fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped

The tender bulb from lemongrass, cut and bruised

Fresh ginger, peeled and cut into slivers

Extra virgin olive oil (good quality)

Add the zest, herbs, and spices to the bowl with the sardine fillets. Toss to combine.

Lightly pack the sardines into a glass jar or plastic container that you do not care to keep. Pour the EVOO over the sardines until they are completely submerged, tap out any air pockets.

Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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