Fresh sardines are a pain in the ass! My first attempt at this recipe, I didn't ask for them to be pre-cleaned and, halfway through the job, couldn't take it any more and just thew the whole batch in the trash. This time, I was smarter (or so I thought). I thanked the fishmonger at New Seasons for cleaning my requested 8 sardines and he said "no... thank YOU" like I had just made this the worst Friday of his entire life. Well, thank YOU, dude, for just barely removing the insides and still leaving me with the task of filleting all these mini fishes.

But I am determined to soldier ahead and rip the spines out of each and every one of these little fuckers.
The Frankies encourage me along: "Filleting time: super-easy". But I don't find it to be easy at all. Each time I try to "get a firm grasp on the head and gently lift it up" I don't find that "the spine will follow". Instead the spine breaks, or brings half the meat along with it. I try a few techniques of my own... but nothing seems to work that great. Finally I end up with 14 fillets in various states of disarray (one fish was a total loss).

the worst of times and the best of times

Next the fillets are dredged in salt and left alone for 10 minutes. From the salt lick into a vinegar bath for another 15 minutes while I whip up the curing solution; a lovely mix of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and lots of chopped parsley. (Turns out it's also a fantastic dip for bread... before the sardines go in, of course.)

salt curing

vinegar bath

Each fillet is nestled gently into the olive oil that will be their home for the next 36 - 48 hours. Which means they will be ready to eat anytime after 4am Sunday morning. So I'm planning a lovely Sunday lunch of Sardine, Blood Orange & Puntarelle Salad and Grilled Cured Sardines, which will conclude the sardine section of the cookbook (thank god!).

Hopefully these guys are worth the effort!

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