Excerpt from The Art of Gay Cooking by Daniel Isengart
In Brittany, the farmers offered about thirty different kinds of vegetables every morning and the fishermen sold a large variety of seafood directly off their docked boats. There was no way of knowing ahead of time what the catch of the day might be. Back in 1983, on the evening of our arrival for the first summer my family and I ever spent there, friends had invited us to a welcoming dinner. The hostess had a perfect way of making
Sardines Mi-Crues Marinées au Citron
(Semi-crudo of Lemon-marinated Sardines)
Beheading, gutting and boning raw sardines takes a bit of practice but is easily learned and perfected if you are not squeamish. The sardines must be absolutely fresh out of the sea. To butterfly fresh sardines, rinse them under running cold water and carefully rub away the scales with your fingers, working from the tail towards the head without damaging the skin. Do this over a colander to catch the scales lest they clog the drain of your sink. Make a small incision just behind the sardine’s head to expose the spine. Now grab a hold of the exposed spine with both your left and right index and thumb, right hand just below the head. Gently pull with your right hand, literally running the spine through your left thumb and index, which will split the body open through the soft belly as you pull. The head and spine should come away with the guts attached. Pinch off the spine, leaving the fish’s tail attached to the now butterflied body. Now remove the little fin in the center of each sardine’s back and rinse the sardines in cold water.
Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon per 6 sardines into a shallow dish. Lay the sardines into the lemon juice, skin side up, cover the dish with cellophane and refrigerate them for no more than 1 hour – if left to macerate longer, the sardines will be fully “cooked” by the acidity of the lemon. To finish, scatter a few thin red onion rings, sliced jalapeños (or other fresh hot chilies or, as a last resort, dried chili flakes), and chopped parsley over the sardines, drizzle them with olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and serve with grilled or toasted slices of baguette. Short of the acquired taste of fresh oysters, this is as good a lunch or appetizer as can be imagined to conjure the pure taste of the sea. ///
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Photos by Steve Viksjo