I have been wanting to eat more fish, for the health of the baby. Baby brains are built entirely of fats, and DHA is the best of those fats for that development. DHA is almost exclusively found in fish. Problems? I'm scared of methylmercury, PCBs, and un-sustainable fishing of declining species. Other problems? I'm from a family of fishophobes, for whom trout and tuna fish is about the limit. (Well, Mom likes halibut. But still.)
Enter the heroic sardine. Sadly, America's last canneries just closed their doors, but they are still available fresh and as imports. They are sustainable, not at all threatened, live low on the food chain (they eat plankton), and low in methylmercury and PCBs. So I bought a couple tins when I found them on sale. Then I cowered for three weeks while morning sickness made trying fishy new things inadvisable. I recalled that Grandma Red used to like sardines: I saw her mashing them with heavy cream, minced green apple, and red onion, and eating them on crackers once. I declined to taste, and she concurred, "you probably wouldn't care for them." Fish and apples? I thought not, too.
I put out requests to two favorite food bloggers to help me find recipes. This morning I got my first reply from Drew at How to Cook Like Your Grandmother (minus the fish & apples, maybe.) He pointed me toward an excellent website which provided numerous exciting preparation options and recipes, and a lot of reassurance regarding methylmercury levels in fish. So encouraging! So delicious looking!
Since as of yesterday I am feeling less queasy, I thought, sure, I'll make some fish for lunch.
But there weren't a lot of recipes for tinned sardines. But then I remembered that Alton Brown made a big deal about the sardine/avocado sandwiches he enjoyed so much during his weight loss, and I thought, yes, even though those look kinda fucking disgusting, I am going to forge ahead and try the Sardicado.
First of all, it is an UGLY sandwich... shades of grays and browns and shredlets of green on top of olive-drabby avocado and brown toast. Yikes. I didn't dare taste the fish mixture until it was safely ensconced on a layer of smashed avocado on my whole wheat toast. And then... and then...
Yes, they're fishy. But also smokey. With the native oiliness of the fish cut by key lime juice (didn't have lemon), zest, and black pepper, it put Pat and I in mind of chicharrones de pescado, a favorite Peruvian treat for us (deep fried fish cubes, dipped in fresh key lime juice with hot chilies sliced in). The avocado multiplied the smokiness and softened the flavors, adding just that oomph of umami.
And I no longer fear the sardine.
So the punchline is, now I want to try them Grandma's way. And lots of ways. They are neither slimy nor as fishy as I feared, and they have a delicious depth of flavor.
If you've known all this for years, feel free to laugh at me.