Having been scarred by an early incident preparing a gourmet recipe for sardines, I've not attempted them again in years until I found this sardines recipe. At the time, our little clique out in Bridgehampton proudly referred to ourselves as the Bloated Pleasure Seekers. Every weekend we attempted to trump the previous excesses in food, drink and debauchery. Epic lobster feasts, inventive and new recipes and the infamous annual buffalo barbecue. Years of wonderful memories and a handful a tales better left untold.
Overall, I can only recall two outright culinary failures. No, not the buffalo heart chili which was always a winner. And not the time we discovered we had no gas for the stove just as the hordes descended on Warren and Diane's house salivating for the feast. No problemo, everything was all the better for being prepared on the grill.
The first of my darkest hours at the dinner table was the dismal clam pie. Even worse than it sounds, I'm not remotely interested in revisiting that hot mess, authentic traditional Hamptons recipe notwithstanding. No, the shame I wish to absolve myself of is the evening of the sardines. Hauled in that day by local fishermen's nets, I proudly brought the silvery swimmers to the table richly dressed in a baroque sauce made with God knows what. The lively chatter quieted as everyone gave the fish eyes the stink eye. Warren intoned "That looks like cat food" and the battle was lost.
How ironic is it then that my sardine redemption has come from fellow B.P.S. charter member Eugenia Giobbi Bone? Of the many many winning books, Gena's Italian Family Dining (co-authored with dad Ed) includes this broiled sardine recipe.
I've taken a few liberties with their recipe; those familiar with the justly-deserved fame of the Giobbi culinary legacy might find this heretical. But that's what dear friends do, no? Share decades of laughs and love, mark the milestones of christenings and bar mitzvahs and birthdays that end with 0, watch with the babies head off to college. And steal their recipes.
4 whole, fat sardines, 6" long or so, cleaned
1/4 c. seasoned bread crumbs
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 scallion finely chopped
1 T. olive oil
A few dashes of Tabasco
1 t. minced capers
Mix the breadcrumbs with all the ingredients that follow, then use this as a stuffing for the cavities of the fish. Reserve enough stuffing to sprinkle some on top before broiling. Slick a pan with oil, heat it well under a broiler. Lay the stuffed fish in the hot pan, distribute the remaining breadcrumbs, and broil until the skins are crisp and start to blister, about 7 or 8 minutes. As always with the broiler, keep a watchful eye.