Toronto’s “Sharper Chef” series is written by food and drink aficionados, and features prominent chefs, brewers, vintners and distillers who are willing to share some of their finest (and oftentimes secret) recipes. DailyXY blogger and Toronto culinary luminary Chris McDonald knows small plates: His restaurant, Cava, is a tapas mecca. The recipe he shares today is for sardines escabeche — a Spanish staple, which McDonald mastered in Italy in the ’80s, during his stint at Verona’s La Bottega del Vino. The recipe harkens back to a time before refrigeration, as it preserves the fish for days in a kind of pickling brine. Its delicate flavours make it perfect for a light summer lunch, or a component of a dinnertime seafood feast. “Essential to the dish’s success is the harmony between the sweetness from the sugar and sour of the vinegar,” says McDonald.
Escabeche (pickling liquid)
700 mL unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 cups water
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 whole clove
3 bay leaves
Bring contents to a simmer, then allow to cool.
2 lbs fat firm sardines, scaled and gutted
In a large frying pan, working in batches, lightly fry the sardines until rare in the center. Drain on paper towels and lightly salt. When they are still warm, cover them with the pickling liquid in a glass or ceramic dish. Allow at least 3-4 hours for the escabeche to penetrate, or ideally, refrigerate them overnight.
McDonald also notes that frying sardines may stink up the house. Try to fry them under a powerful exhaust hood or cook them outside if you can. Grilling the sardines will also work, but may make the fish too delicate.
Image courtesy of stijn.
Calgary’s “Sharper Chef” series is written by food and drink aficionados, and features prominent chefs, brewers, vintners and distillers who are willing to share some of their finest (and oftentimes secret) recipes.