While I adore both foods featured in this month’s Recipe ReDux theme: “Sea What You’ve Been Missing with Seaweed and Little Fishes,” I feel obligated to encourage our readers to stock canned sardines as a pantry staple. I do. And they make for delicious dinners even faster than tuna. This is because one of my kids doesn’t care for canned tuna – so I have to think rather long and hard in order to create a dish she will eat; but she will eat sardines. Sardines flake into a smaller ‘grain’ than tuna and so are easier for young children to chew; good-quality sardines (like King Oscar) are (surprisingly) more mild tasting than most tuna. They are so mild, in fact, I could even drink a cup of tea with these Watercress and Sardine Tea Sandwiches.
A few other tips for softening the ‘fishy’ flavor of canned sardines:
- Add dairy: Greek or regular lowfat yogurt slightly coats your tongue making the fish flavor less forward.
- Add lemon juice: The acid also slightly disguises the fish flavor – but also helps make all the flavors in a dish meld and sing together.
- Add sweet onions: Chives, sweet onions or red onions are a fresh pairing for canned fish.
- Add another strong flavor: If you think the fish still needs a little disguise, add bold dark greens like kale to a pasta dish with sardines; or add watercress or arugula to a sardine sandwich. (I chose watercress here because it’s one of the few green things that has popped up in my garden.)
- Serve sardine sandwiches on hearty bread or crackers: Our Scandinavian friends typically eat sardines on dark whole grain breads or crisp crackers. Take a clue from them – and serve a bold cracker that stands up to the flavor of the fish.
- Shop around: If you don’t care for one brand of sardines, try another. I like King Oscar, but Brunswick is also good. Imported canned sardines from Spain (like Goya) or Mexico tend to be stronger in flavor. Try different flavors like sardines in tomato sauce, in chipotle or wasabi; taste the difference of sardines packed in oil or packed in water.