The late Felipe Rojas-Lombardi offered this dish on the tapas menu at The Ballroom in Manhattan, which closed in 1995. The recipe is from Bruce Beck's The Official Fulton Fish Market Cookbook (E.P. Dutton, 1989).
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 lb. fresh sardines, cleaned, rinsed, and patted dry
- 1⁄2 cup flour
- 1 cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. Spanish paprika
- 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 cups red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. coarse salt
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Dredge fish in flour, shaking off excess, then fry in batches, turning once, until golden, 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to a medium cazuela or other deep ceramic dish as done.
Wipe out skillet, add olive oil, and heat over medium-high heat until very hot. Add garlic and bay leaves and cook until garlic begins to color. Add paprika and thyme, then carefully add vinegar (you may want to use a splatter guard; oil will splatter a lot). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add salt, and simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on desired tartness of marinade. Set aside to let cool until lukewarm. Pour marinade over sardines.
Sardines may be served right away; after several hours of marinating at room temperature; or at room temperature after marinating in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week.