Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sarde a Beccafico

I am so excited to share this dish with you! I first learned of this dish while at the Italian cooking school. This dish is served as an antipasto and the main ingredient is sardines. Yes, I said sardines. I know you are probably turning your nose up about now. I did too, until I tasted it. It was surprisingly delicious! I always assumed sardines were disgusting since the only type I was familiar with were canned. This recipe uses fresh sardines which is nothing like canned sardines.

Sarde literally translates Sardinia. Sardines were named after the island of Sardinia, Italy, where they once lived in abundance. Sardines are a popular ingredient in Sicilian cooking.
Another very popular Sicilian recipe is Pasta con Sarde, Sardine Pasta.

Sarde a Beccafico
(with commentary)

2 pounds of sardines cleaned and open like a book -At the cooking school the chef demonstrated how to clean them. With his bare hands, he pinched of the head, and then with his finger split the fish open pulling out the backbone. I was totally disgusted!! I had never cleaned a fish in my life, and I was about to have to do it without any utensils! My saving grace was that they had some latex gloves that I wore. I don't think I would have been able to do it without the gloves and some deep yoga breathing! At first I was so creeped out, but it became easier with each fish. A couple of weeks ago I made this dish at home and went through the same emotions again, but by the time I finished cleaning the last fish it was no problem.

This is what the fish look like after being cleaned and opened.

5 ounce bread crumbs
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
3 T. grated Pecorino cheese- Pecorino cheese is a hard,strong tasting cheese made from sheep's milk. In South Italy it is very traditional to add black peppercorn to the cheese.

3.5 ounces anchovies in oil- I didn't use the anchovies. They smelled awful.
Parsley bunch
1 clove garlic
1 ounce pine nuts
2 ounces Raisins- soaked in warm water approximately 30 minutes, then squeeze out water
breadcrumbs for dipping
2 eggs
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat a little oil in a pan and then toast the breadcrumbs. Add the raisins, pine nuts, garlic, chopped parsley, pecorino cheese, parmesan, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix in enough olive oil to make the mixture wet.

Wash and dry the sardines.

Place a small amount of the breadcrumb mixture onto half of the sardines. Place the rest of the sardines on top of each breadcrumb covered sardine. Next dip in egg and then dredge in plain breadcrumbs. Fry in oil (olive, peanut, or sunflower oil). Drain on paper towel.

There are other ways to make these. Another version is after placing the breadcrumb mixture on the filet, roll it and dip it according to the directions. Instead of frying, place them in a baking dish and bake until done.

Fresh sardines are hard to find in the states, but if you ever get a chance to try them I recommend you go for it!! Or better yet, make a trip to Italy and try some authentic Sicilian Sarde a Beccafico for yourself. Free lodging available!!

Buon Appetito!

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