Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sardines for lunch

I really like sardines. They are a recent discovery for me. And French supermarkets have almost as many varieties of canned fish (mainly sardines and mackerel) as they do yogurt. They're good right out of the can on a slice of bread. On Monday we ate canned sardines for lunch with boiled potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Three varieties of canned sardine fillets from the supermarket.

I opened two tins, one with sardines packed in olive oil and the other flavored with lemon and basil. Both were good. I added a little tabasco sauce to the plainer ones for a little additional kick. Very tasty. These were sardine fillets, but you can also get them canned whole (without heads or tails). They're just as good, but you have to take out the back bone. I'm sure there are people that just eat the bone since it's pretty soft, but I like to remove it.

When I was in Madrid in 2006, I ate one of the most memorable sandwiches I've ever had. The sandwich was simply sardines on a thick, crusty piece of bread; it was dripping with delicious olive oil and the fish was fresh and good. I tried cooking fresh sardines at home once but was not happy with the result. Canned sardines are very good and much easier.

France has a big sardine canning industry based mostly in Brittany. From what I've read, the French perfected the method of preserving sardines in cans very soon after the process for metal canning was invented. The method spread around the world and is practiced in many countries in Europe and North Africa. Unfortunately, the US sardine industry has declined, like much of US industry, with the last canning factory closing last year.

That information comes from Wikipedia, so I cannot guarantee total accuracy. To wit: Reason #159 for not relying on Wikipedia for your serious research: "Sardines were named after the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, where they once lived in abundance." Yeah, until the humans showed up and forced them into the Mediterranean Sea.


  1. Hmmm... I thought I didn't like sardines, but maybe they are worth another try. I definitely like anchovies... a very controversial fish as well. Can anyone compare and contrast sardines and anchovies for me?

    VW: angsher -- angler with a hangover?

  2. Most of our sardines come in from Canada. I eat them occasionally and love them with chopped avocado on toast. Now you are making me hungry.

  3. We love tinned sardines (or pilchards). They're great on toast or in a salad.
    We visited the fishing museum in Vannes (I think) a few years ago and learned all about the canning of sardines then. It was fascinating and a good day out.

    Cheryl - anchovies are skinny little fish with a very intense, salty flavour. You wouldn't want a pile of them on your toast. Sardines are much bigger and a gentler flavour.

  4. Paul Bocuse loves them. His sardine of choice from a tin: Connetable.

  5. I love tiny sardines, bones and all and eat them often. My favorite were the one packed in fish oil but I can't find them anymore.
    (When the space shuttle lands on the West coast, we generally hear 2sonic booms. It always makes me happy knowing the astronauts made it safely back home).

  6. My favorites are the sardines in mustard. Those on a lightly toasted whole grain bread are delightful, backbone and all. I always had to eat my sardine lunches in my office at MIT with the door closed, however, as my colleagues made a fuss if they had to smell them. Go figure!

  7. Walt, your sarcastic comment made me laugh.

    We have stacks of canned sardines in our pantry. Someone in this house cannot pass by a low-priced can of sardines. One stack is from Morocco and two are from Poland. King Oscar is the favored brand but they are harder to find.

  8. Walt

    I mix the sardines packed in olive oil with some finely sliced echalottes, slivers of chilli peppers and few drops of wine vinegar. Good on some slices of bread as open-faced sandwiches.

  9. I've never eaten a sardine but you're making a strong case for them.

    That's it, I'm going to the grocery store.

  10. I like anchovies and sardines - a canned ("tinned") anchovy sandwich might be a little intense. I also like the small canned smoked oysters.

    Regarding the sonic boom - perhaps Libyan fighter pilots taking the long way 'round to Benghazi?

  11. I very much dislike canned fish, and especially, sardines. We did have some very good fresh sardines in Barcelona.

  12. I thought the slug was a discarded leftover sardine!

    I usually mash my canned sardines with a big chunk of unsalted butter and make a delicious spread for apéritif or otherwise.

  13. Now I'm craving sardines. Thanks, Walt!

  14. cheryl, sardines are larger and not salty like anchois.

    islandgal246, I really like the avocado idea. I will try it very soon.

    jean, so good!

    john-san, Connetable is widely available here, so I'll try them soon.

    nadege, I keep taking the bones out; maybe I should stop that!

    will, mustard sounds great. Another thing to give a try to.

    carolyn, I never knew there were so many kinds!

    beaver, another excellent suggestion.

    pepe, enjoy!

    john, canned smoked oysters are good. Haven't had any in a while but now I'm going to look for them.

    starman, I knew not everybody would like them.

    chm, yum!

    walt, and they're good for you!

    jonny, wow! Your site is amazing. I'll have to dig around in the archives for a while. Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I'm gonna have to try these. I've been loving the anchovies lately, which is something new for me. I don't think I've ever had a sardine. So true about Wikipedia.

  16. torn, they're a lot less salty, and you do more with them flavor wise (like hot & spicy, mustard, tomato, lemon, etc.). Good luck!

  17. Just to put the record straight, I remember now that the fishing museum was at Concarneau, not Vannes. I highly recommend it.


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