Friday, June 26, 2009

Grilled Sardines and Anchovies Recipe

To celebrate a recent family birthday, we grilled sardines and anchovies on our new mini balcony grill, and I made a polenta ‘lasagna’ as an accompaniment. I had grilled sardines several times on my own, attempting, usually, to recreate the memory of an amazing simple meal of sardines and french fries I shared with my father once in Slovenia. I have made them at home, in a regular pan on the stovetop, and I have made them, and had them made for me, by my friend Cheryl, outside, on an outdoor grill, like this time. But anchovies on the grill I had never tried.

One summer, four years ago, I was teaching in Rome for a couple of weeks, and needing a little single girl alone time, took the middle weekend, and off I went to Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and back to Naples by boat. Once I saw the sweeping views from the first stop in Positano, I jumped off the bus attempting to find a place to sleep, and viewed, and quickly paid for, a room overlooking the Italian coastline, and the colorful villas dotting the surrounding cliffs. After a refreshing swim in the pool, and washing off all the Pompeiian dust, I headed down the hill for a look at the sea and a bite to eat.

The Italians were often baffled that I was traveling alone, and eating alone was no different. Assuming they felt sorry for me, I got lots of free stuff. My gorgeous meal of Italian flag red cherry tomatoes, twelve butterflied and grilled anchovies from the water my feet could almost touch, and a substantial arugula salad enhanced with olive oil and acidified by a squeeze of the ubiquitous Amalfi lemon, was followed by a gift: a curvy glass of the local liquor with a wild strawberry floating in it. After that meal, the idea of grilling fresh anchovies became as dreamy as memories of my Mediterranean adventure.

I was worried they would stick on the grill if I butterflied them, so I cleaned them and grilled them whole, and left them for just a minute over the heat. These anchovies were an experiment, a little appetizer before the foolproof sardines, fragrant with fresh thyme sprigs, and imbued with smoky flavor. Now that I know I can do it, next time it’s twelve anchovies for each of us, and a small glass of limoncello, perhaps, for the strawberries.

Grilled Sardines and/or Anchovies Recipe

Clean the sardines and/or anchovies by cutting the head off on an angle behind the gills, and then make a small slit in the belly area. Remove the head and then the guts from the slit you just made, and rinse the inside with water. For a prettier presentation, you may leave the head on. Remove any scales on the sardines by running your knife gently the wrong way against them. Rinse again, and set the cleaned fish aside. There’s no need to do this with the anchovies, and there might even be debate about cleaning them at all; they are so small.

I bought my sardines already cleaned by the fish monger, and disappointingly, they removed the tail, too. The tail is my favorite part, not only because it gets nice and crispy on the grill, but also because you can use it to pull all the bones out with one fell swoop once the fish is cooked and on your plate. After you get over a little blood, it’s really easy to clean the fish yourself, and saves money, too!

Dry the sardines and anchovies well, and fill the belly of all the sardines with a thyme sprig. Rub the surface of the fish with plenty of olive oil, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Make sure your grill is hot, and the coals are well distributed. Put the sardines and anchovies on the grill, being careful not to crowd them. Cook the sardines for a minute and a half to 2 minutes on each side, turning them carefully. Cook the anchovies for barely a minute on each side.

Remove from the grill and serve immediately with fresh lemon, and arugula salad, if you like.

Other recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Wilted Dandelion Greens with Dried Figs and Pine Nuts Recipe, Fresh Coriander, Ginger, and Chile Crepês Recipe (Rava Dosa), Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası)