By the time you are done reading this you will become a believer.
A sardine believer.
I spent most of my life eating these petite, glossy fish. I ate them as a snack or as a meal. Sandwiched between two fluffy slices of Wonder bread, they were forgiving and satisfying. A pleasure in the mouth.
As an adult, I still turn to sardines whenever I get a hankering for something rich and delicate.
There’s something so primal about looping your finger and peeling back the tin lid to reveal the glistening beauty inside. The ones packed in olive oil are the best. I use the wild caught, brisling sardine Crown Prince variety.
But of course, if you can find fresh sardines at your local fish monger, do snatch those up.
For me, I find it most alluring to eat sardines straight out of the tin accompanied by a glass of wine. The golden fat from the fish and the oil combined coats the entire mouth as you chew, leaving behind a delightfully well-rounded balance of flavors. Sip. Chew. Sip, sip. Chew. It’s gastronomic perfection.
A couple weeks ago, I was introduced to Kerrygold Irish Butter. I quickly fell enamored with its’ creamy texture, lively yellow hue, and full-bodied buttery flavored goodness. It reminded me of the butter I find in Peru — soft and rich. A perfect companion to a humble piece of bread.
This was actually where my inspiration for making tartines began.
I wanted to celebrate the simplicity in food.
Crisp, peppery radishes. Pickled herring, zingy and meaty. Sardines. And butter — whirled in a whimsical blend of herbs, garlic, and citrus.
Commonly known as a compound butter, this simple spread can be used on anything. It’s addictive, too, so make a big batch. Stash some in the fridge for the week and roll the rest up in a log, covered in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. Cut and slice when desired.
Don’t feel intimidated by the word ‘tartine.’ It’s basically a fancy French way of referring to a small open-faced sandwich. You have the license to dress it up or down. Be inventive.
Here, I kept it simple.
I used earthy pumpernickel bread as a vehicle for the fantastic star-studded ingredients. Each one was unique and delicious in their own right. It made for a perfect solo lunch on a gorgeously sunny day.
I hope I’ve convinced you to become a true sardine believer.
Go on. You need a little more Omega-3 in your life, anyway.
Tartine of Sardine, Herring, and Radish with Herby Butter
[Note: Since this can be altered, adjusted, and adapted to suit personal needs, I haven't included a precise recipe. Use this as a guide to get you started. As a rule of thumb, get the best ingredients you can find. And if it's from a local purveyor, even better.]
For the herby butter:
1 stick, unsalted butter, room temperature
Mixed fresh herbs (tarragon, chives, thyme, parsley)
Garlic paste — minced garlic ground together with kosher salt
Lemon zest and some juice
Shallot, minced finely
Extra salt to taste
Mix everything to combine. Have a little taste. If you like it, it’s good.
For the tartines:
Sardines packed in olive oil
Pickled herring — I used a delicious specialty herring in white wine from Monahan’s Seafood in Ann Arbor, but they come in a variety of preparations. Ask the fish guy for a taste.
Extra virgin olive oil, fresh dill, chives, salt and pepper, lemon zest as finishing touches
Assemble tartines to your disposition. They will turn out delicious no matter what.
*Editor’s Note: 4/25/11 — I am by no means gettin’ skrilla (monies) from Crown Prince, Kerrygold Butter, or Monahan’s Seafood for mentioning their goods in my post. To put it simply, I just really really love their products and had to share them with you. The end.