August 4, 2023

Portuguese Sardines

My love for grilled seafood knows no bounds, and these grilled Portuguese sardines make the top of the list. These mild sardines are grilled until charred and topped with an spicy acidic green onion sauce.

If you don’t like your food staring back at you then this is not the recipe for you. If that doesn’t bother you at all then these grilled Portuguese Sardines are a must make. For some reason sardines have a bad rap in the US, whereas if you go overseas to well a place like Portugal they are an everyday food. Let’s make them the norm here. So heat up the grill, grab a glass of wine, cause these sardines are going to transport us to a lovely place.

It’s very rare that I release an Instagram reel before the blog post. Typically the blog post will come the day before if not the day of posting the recipe video. However, with the launch of the new site (isn’t she pretty) the recipe unfortunately was put on hold. Now that I am retroactively writing this, I got to say I was blown away by the amount of love for this dish. Out of all dishes I wouldn’t have bet that the trolls would have had it out for was this one. To my surprise it was nothing but love. The support really hit home because to be honest this is probably the most TBA dish I have ever posted.

Okay, story time. If you have read my About Me then you know my love for cooking started when I was at FIT. I made some questionable things in that 100 sq ft kitchen, from bacon wrapped chicken legs to gutting questionable supermarket fish, and don’t even get me started with seafood delight. My husband, boyfriend at the time, went to Fordham and often times we would visit Arthur Ave, a foodie’s dream. Now it wasn’t the copious amount of Italian food that brought me joy, but instead it was the fish markets. Every time we passed these stores I would eye the live blue crabs, one because I love crab and second cause they were cheap. One day I said F it and bought a bag.

With 15 live crabs with me on the subway i carefully planned what I was going to painstakingly take hours to make. I ended up making soup, but not before some crabs tried to make a run for it in my dorm room. I was unfazed, my brand new roommate was traumatized. Needless to say we didn’t get off on the right foot and only roomed together for a semester. It’s dishes like that, getting really personal with ingredients, buying the seafood that frankly not many people I knew would take the time to cook themselves is what made The Bold Appetite what it is.

grilled Portuguese sardines topped with a spicy green onion sauce

WHY EAT SARDINES

Whether we are talking about tinned sardines or the larger fresh variety, sardines are SO good for you. While being a great source of protein, sardines are also packed with rich nutrients, are a great source of iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids, and are low in mercury. Also for the most part when you eat smaller you are helping the environment. Sardines are seen as a more sustainable fish than your bigger more “favorable” ones. To tell you the truth I would choose an under loved fish over a bigeye any day. So do yourself a favor, if you don’t make this recipe at least pick up a can of sardines.

sardines on parchment

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR GRILLED PORTUGUESE SARDINES

  • Sardines – Just to clarify, these are not tinned sardines. This variety of Portuguese sardines are much large than the tinned variety, and will be harder to come by. My recommendation is call your local seafood market first. Ask if they have sardines. The plus of buying them from a seafood market is chances are if they are fresh they can gut them for you. Yes, these little fish need to be gutted. If your local seafood market doesn’t carry them check out supermarket chains, a lot of them will have sardines in the frozen section. These are just as good, just going to require a little elbow grease.

GREEN ONION SAUCE

  • Green Onions – Or scallions.
  • Jalapeño – Sensitive to heat? Reduce the jalapeño in the recipe. Jalapeño adds so much more than heat here so I don’t want you to remove it completely. Remove the pith, white fleshy section in the middle, to reduce the amount of heat added to the sauce.
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Limes – Must be fresh lime juice.
  • Garlic – Fresh only!
  • Olive Oil – I normally recommend EVOO, but we don’t want the flavor to overpower the sauce. Regular olive oil works here.

TOOLS NEEDED

  • Grill
  • Wooden or Metal Skewers – Skewer hack; if opting for wooden skewers soak them for 30 minutes to an hour before skewing the sardines. This will prevent them from burning on the grill.
grilled Portuguese sardines on a tray topped with a spicy green onion sauce

HOW TO GUT SARDINES

Alright! If you have come this far you are committed to this dish. My number one recommendation is to google ” how to gut sardines?” There you will find a ton of youtube resources walking you through how to gut these little fish. For obvious reasons, I did not take step by step photos on how to gut sardines. See below for written instructions.

Descale – They have scales, sorry. With the back of a knife gently scrape from the tail to the head. You will see some of the scales come up, and the fish will loose its iridescent shine. Continue to scape until all the scales are gone on both sides. While it does take a little effort the scales are relatively easy to remove and so is the skin. Careful to not remove or mangle that.

Cut the Fins + Head – For presentation purposes I did not cut off the head. Do yourself a favor, cut off the head. Removing the head will make the gutting process 10x easier. With kitchen scissors cut the dorsal (top) fin off, and cut off the head.

Open the Belly – With the kitchen scissors cut along the belly. Using your fingers scoop out the contents of the belly and rinse it under water. You want the sardine to run clear, so if the water is still red keep rinsing.

Once done, place each sardine on a sheet tray or bowl of ice. Depending on how many you are gutting this may take some time, best to keep them cold.

HOW TO MAKE GRILLED PORTUGUESE SARDINES

Gut + Season + Skewer – See above. Once this step is complete it’s easy sailing. Drizzle a neutral high smoke point oil (avocado is a great option) and a heavy pinch of salt. Coat thoroughly. That is all they need. One by one skewer the sardines, starting from inside the mouth until the skewer pops out by the tail. It is easier to go this way than the other way around.

Make the Sauce – Before cooking the sardines combine the sauce (green onions, jalapeños, garlic, olive oil, rice vinegar, and lime juice). Let this sauce sit in the fridge to allow the flavors to mature for 20 minutes before consuming.

Grill – Prior to turning on the grill oil the grates with a high smoke point oil. This can be avocado, canola, or vegetable to name a few. Preheat your grill to 500 degrees Fahrenheit at minimum. In order to keep these from sticking the grates are going to have to be HOT. Once preheated place the sardines directly on the grates, it’s easiest to only do a few at a time, and cook for 2-4 minutes on each side. When ready the flip I found it easy to also use a metal spatula to ease the sardine off the grates for the ones that were sticking slightly. Remove the sardines from the grill, and top with the sauce and fresh lemon juice.

Just a note on bones! Avoid eating the backbone and the larger bones attached to it. Sardines also have tiny tiny pin bones, which are so soft and small they are completely edible. Best tip of advice when eating these is to just have fun. Are they a little bit of a fuss? Sure. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

grilled Portuguese sardines topped with a green onion sauce

STORING/REHEATING

Store the green onion sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. As for the sardines… eat them immediately.

Looking for more seafood? Who isn’t? Check out the recipes below!

Tuscan Shrimp
Chili Garlic Shrimp
Calabrian Shrimp
Seafood Pasta

August 4, 2023

Grilled Portuguese Sardines

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These grilled Portuguese sardines are grilled until charred and topped with an spicy green onion sauce.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Tapas
Cuisine Portuguese
Keyword Grilled, Sardines
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 3 people

Ingredients

  • 12 Portuguese sardines ability to scale this up or down
  • avocado oil
  • 1 lemon

Green Onion Sauce

  • 5 green onions whites and greens sliced thin
  • 2 jalepenos minced, pith removed
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

  • Combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to chill and allow the flavors to combine.
  • If using wooden skewers soak them in water for a minimum of 30 minutes prior.
  • Gut the sardines* see body passage for details.
  • Toss the sardines in a drizzle of avocado oil and a heavy pinch of salt. One by one skewer the sardines, starting from inside the mouth until the skewer pops out by the tail.
  • Preheat the grill to 500℉. Once preheated place the sardines directly on the grates, it's easiest to only do a few at a time, and cook for 2-4 minutes on each side.
  • Remove from the grill squeeze a generous amount of lemon, and top with the spicy green onion sauce.

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