Drape these sardines whole over a bed of salad greens, and let the sauce dribble through the leaves like dressing. You can also use your fingers to pull the fillets off the bones for an easy pasta or rice add-in or sandwich-stuffer. Spaniards often serve sardines in escabeche as a tapa alongside a pile of well-salted potato chips and a cold caña (half-pint).
An equal weight of another oily fish—such as mackerel, tuna, or bluefish—can stand in for the sardines; in any case, reach for a fine salt when flouring as kosher salt doesn’t adhere to the skin as effectively.
- 1¾ lb. whole fresh sardines, heads removed, gutted, and cleaned*
- 3⁄4 cup (3¼ oz.) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp. fine sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
- 1 large yellow onion (7 oz.), thinly sliced
- 2 medium carrots (3 oz.), peeled and cut into ¼-inch coins
- 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed with the side of a knife
- 10 black peppercorns
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- One 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 whole star anise
- 2⁄3 cup dry white wine
- 1 tsp. pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
*When purchasing fresh sardines, you can ask your fishmonger to clean them, which involves removing the scales, bones, guts, and sometimes heads. Cleaning the tiny fish yourself is simple and easy, however, requiring nothing more than a paring knife and your bare hands. If you’d like to give it a shot, check out our step-by-step guide, here.