I love the simplicity of grilled sardines. If they are super fresh, nothing more is needed than simply tossing them on a hot grill and perhaps a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of fruity olive oil. If you don’t live near the ocean where freshly netted sardines are readily available, then I suggest IQF or individually quick frozen. People may scoff and say frozen is never as good. I know I used to be that opinionated too. Then I cooked a few pounds caught by a small fisherman near Monterey, California After catching, he immediately flash-froze them at 40 below zero, locking in the freshness. The best practice is to thaw slowly in your refrigerator over two days. This way you have the least amount of cell damage that is usually caused by thawing too quickly.
Many people have a decided opinion on whether or not they will eat a strongly flavored fish. For those willing to try or already love them, I suggest a simple sauce with assertive, sharp briny or spicy flavors like capers, preserved lemon or harissa. These grilled sardines are fabulous served over arugula or even simply steamed couscous.
Sardines with Harissa, Garlic, and Herbs
A quick and delicious preparation for full-flavored sardines.
- 1 pound fresh or IQF sardines gutted and washed, see notes
- sea salt
- herbes de Provence
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp butter
- 8 fat garlic cloves sliced good fellas thin
- 1 sweet onion diced fine
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 1 tbsp harissa paste
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
Season sardines with sea salt, herbes de Provence and olive oil and let marinate for a few hours.
Get your charcoal grill super hot, then drop sardines over the hottest part of the coals. Flames will likely burst out and instantly crisp skin, which is fine as long as they do not burn.
While sardines are cooking, prepare the sauce by melting butter on a burner.
Add garlic, and cook over medium heat till amber colored, about one minute.
Add the onion and cook for a few minutes longer.
Remove from heat, squeeze in lemon juice and add harissa paste. The actual amount of harissa used should depend on the strength of the harissa paste and your tolerance for heat.
Flip your sardines on the grill using a pair of tongs. The second side always cooks far quicker. You will know the sardines are done when the skin on both sides is brown and crispy.
Add any remaining olive oil and parsley to the harissa butter. Pour over sardines and enjoy.
IQF = individually quick frozen. Most of the time sardines are sold whole and will need to be cleaned slightly. Take a pairing knife and slit open the stomach. Use your finger to remove any guts, then rinse the belly clean. It is far easier than you can imagine.