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.
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.
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.
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.
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!