Sar Bar. Sardine Queen. Tinned Fin. All names I’ve conjured up for the tinned fish bar that exists squarely within the corners of my mind. In late winter I had the chance to eat at Saltie Girl in Boston, a place commonly referred to as an oyster bar, but oysters were just the tip of the iceberg. Never in my life had I seen an a la carte list for tinned fish, much less one that was as lengthy and un-pronounceable as a French wine list. We ordered from this list some Portuguese sardines, and were pleasantly surprised to find that sardines aren’t the salty stinky fish we imagine them to be — BTW, the salty ones are anchovies. Every tin was served with hot sauce, a jam of some sort, a soft butter, and crusty bread. My world turned, rather, Saltie Girl introduced me to a new one.
Funny enough, sardines are well-liked in Jamaica, too. They’re usually eaten with onions. 😍
I’m calling this recipe a party trick and not a recipe because it doesn’t require much effort and your guests or (or best friends you forced over for an afternoon of binge watching) will appreciate your classiness and creativity. I served sardines with sea salt honey butter, black garlic onion jam, chili harissa sauce, and a chunky herb gremolata. Loosely follow my guidance below and you’ll be set on appetizers or things to hold people over:
3-4 tins of good sardines like these
1 baguette, warmed and cut into 3/4 inch-thick slices
1/4 c your favorite hot sauce - I used Haven’s Kitchen’s Zippy Chili Harissa
1 head of black garlic
1/4 sweet onion, diced
1/4 c (half a stick) salted butter, plus 2 more tbsp
1 tbsp honey
1 bunch chives
1 bunch mint
1 bunch parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt, plus more for garnishing
sea salt honey butter
Bring half a stick of butter to room temperature
In a small serving bowl, combine the honey with the butter until well-incorporated
Sprinkle with salt and refrigerate until ready to serve.
black garlic onion jam
In a small saute pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter on medium-high
Carefully remove each clove of black garlic and allow them to sweat in the pan
Add the sweet onion and a pinch of salt, and sautee, stirring for 5 minutes
Add 1 tbsp of sugar, sauteeing until the liquid has reduced
Add a little bit of water, allowing it to reduce, then repeating until you have a jammy-liquid in the pan
Remove from heat after about 25-30 minutes in total and refrigerate until ready to serve.
chunky herb gremolata
In a food processor or blender, chop the chives, mint, and parsley until you have a thick, grassy mixture
Add the olive oil, white wine vinegar, 1 tsp of sugar, and a pinch of salt and pulse again
Refrigerate until ready to serve
Serving: On a large platter, have your bread already sliced and condiments and spreads out with separate servings spoons and butter knives. Open the sardines and add salt and peppercorns as garnish if you feel they’re looking bland. Keep salt on the table for garnish, and get creative by adding salt flakes or flavored salts.