7 Things to Do with Canned Sardines

The last sardine cannery in the United States closed its doors for good last month, due to "global competition, corporate consolidations and a general lack of appetite, at least in the United States." But not only is the small, oily, silvery fish inexpensive, easy to prepare, and loaded with things that are good for you, like Omega-3 fatty acids and calcium, it’s also one of the most sustainable fish around: The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program lists sardines as a "Best Choice" due to their abundance and high production rate. Usually canned sardines are thought of as a last resort for when you can’t be bothered to cook, but reconsider. Here are some recipes.

1. Fisherman’s Eggs

Easy and very tasty. Try them for breakfast, or pair with a leafy salad for a quick supper. Serves 4. Adapted from The Silver Spoon.

Heat the oven to 500°F and preheat an ovenproof serving dish for five minutes. Place a can of sardines, a small sliced shallot, a few sprigs of chopped parsley, and two cloves of finely chopped garlic in the warm dish. Add some black pepper and put the dish back in the oven for six minutes. Remove the dish from the oven, break four eggs into a bowl, and pour them gently on top of the sardine mixture. Season with salt and pepper and put the dish back in the oven for seven minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but still jiggly. Remove the dish and let it sit for five minutes (the eggs keep on cooking even out of the oven). Serve with toast and hot sauce.

2. Smoked Sardine Pâté

Cottage cheese and yogurt give this healthy spread a tangy taste that complements the smoky flavor of the sardines. Put it on brown bread with pickles and watercress for a quick, tasty lunch. Serves 6. Recipe by Chris and Rachel Rochelle.

In a food processor combine two cans of smoked sardines, seven ounces of cottage cheese, seven ounces of Greek yogurt, and the juice of half a lemon and blend until just smooth. Serve on bread or crackers dusted with cayenne pepper.

3. Sardine Fritters in Lettuce Leaves with Sriracha-Soy Sauce

The fritters were based on a recipe from Mario Batali. The sauce was part of a recipe in Bon Appétit by Stuart Brioza. Perfect for a dinner with friends. Serves 4.

To make the sauce, whisk two tablespoons of Sriracha sauce, two tablespoons of soy sauce, and two tablespoons of fresh lime juice together in a small bowl. Select a handful of leaves from a head of butter lettuce; wash and dry them. To make the fritters, mix together two tins of sardines, two eggs, two cloves of finely chopped garlic, a chopped quarter-bunch of parsley, three-quarters of a cup of breadcrumbs, and two tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Heat about an inch of vegetable oil in a large saucepan till it spits when you put a test crumb in. Make small balls (approximately 1 inch in diameter) of the sardine mixture and fry for three to four minutes until golden brown, turning them occasionally with tongs. Place the fritters on a plate with a kitchen towel underneath to absorb the oil. Serve in the lettuce leaves with the Sriracha-soy sauce drizzled on top and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

4. Sardine-Arugula Pizza

Delicious any time of the day; healthy, too. Serves 4. Recipe by Chris Rochelle.

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Roll out a disk of CHOW's Basic Pizza Dough (or use premade dough) on a flour-dusted baking tray and brush on a thin layer of Basic Pizza Sauce. On top place a large handful of arugula, half of a thinly sliced onion, two thinly sliced sweet peppers, two cloves of chopped garlic, and one drained can of sardines halved lengthwise. Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and liberally apply crushed red pepper flakes.

5. Sardine Squares

Serve these little morsels with apéritifs or cocktails. Makes 16 squares. Recipe by Chris Rochelle.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Thaw one eight-ounce sheet of puff pastry. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan. Add half a finely diced onion and one crushed garlic clove and cook over low heat for five minutes, stirring until softened. Stir in three tablespoons of tomato purée, cook for a few minutes more, then remove from heat. Stir in one tablespoon of capers, three anchovies, and two chopped sardines. Roll out the thawed puff pastry and cut it into 16 little squares. Brush egg wash on each square. Place a tablespoon of the sardine mixture in the middle of each square and bake for 15 minutes. Garnish with quartered black olives.

6. Seanuts

Inspired by CHOW's Chile-Lime Peanuts. Try them for your next cocktail party. Makes 10 to 15 servings as a snack.

Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Toss together two cans of drained and chopped sardines, two pounds of peanuts, 20 unpeeled garlic cloves, six tablespoons of peanut oil, and four crushed arbol chiles until evenly coated. Spread the ingredients out on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast, shaking and stirring halfway through, until the nuts are toasted and beginning to crack open, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a large, heatproof bowl. Toss with three tablespoons of finely grated lime zest, four teaspoons of kosher salt, and four teaspoons of sugar and serve.

7. Sardine-Dill Fish Cakes

Serve as a light lunch or dinner with a salad. Makes 6 cakes. Recipe by Chris Rochelle.

Coarsely chop and boil two medium Yukon Gold potatoes until tender. Drain and mash the potatoes. Add two cans of drained and chopped sardines, one cup of chopped spring onions, a quarter-bunch of chopped fresh dill, two tablespoons of flour, two crushed garlic cloves, two tablespoons of grated lemon peel, and one cup of panko breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper, then mix in one beaten egg. Shape the mixture into 6 (3-inch) cakes. Coat with panko breadcrumbs. In a nonstick frying pan, add two tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the fish cakes about three at a time, turning them over until they're golden brown and crispy.

And see the Spring 2010 issue of Edible San Francisco for some nice recipes for grilling and curing fresh sardines.