Fr. Z’s Kitchen: Shiny little fish!

I was at the market and spotted shiny little fish in the ice bank. Someone had ordered fresh sardines and didn’t need them all. They were fresh, unfrozen, and uncleaned. I got them on the spot.

So… what to do?

Gut them.

Stuff some lemon and thyme in them.

Put them on pans with more thyme, oil, and garlic.   Sprinkle salt.

I did 2 and then 3.

They need only a few minutes, close to the heat source.

These critters are as oily as a conference of bishops!  Hence, you need something that will cut through.

I had an unusual Basque white wine with strong citrus overtones and slightly effervescent.  Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina (pronounced “cha-koh-leena”)

In the end, I had 5 nice broiled sardines and a green salad.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.  When something catches your eye, it’s generally okay to change plans and work with it!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. VP says:

    A valuable reminder that it is only 32 days until St. Joseph’s Day and pasta chi sarde.

  2. AureEntuluva says:

    What’s the bone situation like on these things. How does one get around them?

  3. Gab says:

    Such a good cook you are, Father. Five fishes, eh? I can see you in your own TV show, cooking and delivering a sermon weaved in with the dish du jour at the same time!

  4. jaykay says:

    I am a great fan of “oily” fish, particularly sardines and herring. So rasy to cook as well, the danger is the temptation to overcook them. I really pigged out on sardines walking the Camino Portugues a few years back – and Father’s slightly effervescent Basque wine sounds a bit like the Portuguese “vinho verde”. Ahh, memories!

  5. Ms. M-S says:

    Oh, Fr. Z, please change it to “Don’t be afraid to try new things in the kitchen”! Otherwise, I’m afraid someone from the Reformed Catholic crowd trawling (or trolling) through your site will pounce on it and quote it as a celebration of change. I’m only half kidding.

  6. AureEntuluva says: bones

    They are very fine and the spine somewhat sturdier. You could simply crunch up the whole thing without doing you harm. Otherwise, with a little care, you can separate the flesh from the topside and then lift the whole spine out, as one might do when dressing a trout for the table.

  7. Gab says: TV show, cooking and delivering a sermon weaved in with the dish

    Well, sardines would make it easy. After a quick explication of the symbolism of the parts of the sardine, and the oily fish odor as they grill being a sign that something fishy is going on in Rome and that the Devil makes frying pans, as the proverb goes, but no lids, I would remind everyone of the story of St. Anthony, preaching to the sardines. St. Anthony tried to preach to the people about their heresy, but they wouldn’t listen. So he went to the shore and thousands of fish came to the water’s edge arranged in neat rows with their heads out of the water to hear what he had to say. To this day, in Portugal (St. Anthony was from Lisbon), sardines are consumed for the Saint’s feast, and men give basil plants to their gals with poems attached.

    And speaking of “basil”…

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    In one of the fishier apocrypha (the one with the talking dog), St. Peter brings a string of salted, dried sardines back to life, as a sign that the coming resurrection is real.

    (Fishy re: being fun Roman legends instead of history, but doctrinally okay.)

  9. Fallibilissimo says:

    I have to try this. I love these little fish. For those concerned with heavy metals (Hg) in fish, which is now a very real concern, these little guys are a wonderful solution. Still, I try to find out where they come from, but it’s a great way to eat delicious and healthy fish (sardines especially are full of great nutrients).

    Of course, any health benefit is mitigated if folks are like me and can consume a week’s worth of salt in salted sardines or anchovies, in one single sitting. Darn it, those things are good. Anybody who wants can try pairing Laphroiag with some nicely cleaned salted sardines (dry). Some purists will think I deserve being burnt at the stake ASAP for saying this, but if you love that iodine, salt, the sea, smoke…my friends it’s a marriage made in heaven between Scotland and the Mediterranean.

    As for cleaning, I do find anchovies easier. Learn a technique, use your thumb correctly and it unzips the whole fish with little effort. Anybody could look it up online, it’s really easy to have a whole bunch of them ready for cooking.

  10. Grant M says:

    A “fishy fume” is symbolic of something fishy in Rome, but burning the liver of a fish might symbolise the exorcism of evil:

    And now, remembering what the angel had said, [Tobias] took out from his wallet a piece of the fish’s liver, which he burnt on live coals.
    With that, the evil spirit fled; it was overtaken by the angel Raphael in the waste lands of Upper Egypt, and there held prisoner. (Tobias 8:2-3).

    So entertained those odorous sweets the Fiend,
    Who came their bane, though with them better pleased
    Than Asmodeus with the fishy fume
    That drove him, though enamoured, from the spouse
    Of Tobit’s son, and with a vengeance sent
    From Media post to Egypt, there fast-bound. (Paradise Lost Bk 4)

  11. Fallibilissimo says:

    Ok, you’ve got me interested. Why would burning fish liver have anything to do with liberating one from evil spirits? At first, it would actually make me think of some pagan ritual. But, as you highlight, there it is in the Bible. I wonder how the symbolism was established.

  12. Kathleen10 says:

    Fr. Z. I really enjoy your food adventures. I love cooking and baking and should do more of it. I love the food posts because they are such a welcome momentary break from all the rest. It is lovely to contemplate happy things like these shiny little fish. Thank you.

  13. Gab says:

    “St. Anthony tried to preach to the people about their heresy, but they wouldn’t listen. So he went to the shore and thousands of fish came to the water’s edge arranged in neat rows with their heads out of the water to hear what he had to say.”

    Oh I do so love my St Anthony!

  14. Grant M says:

    @Fallibilissimo, I was just thinking about the symbolism the other day. Well, the fish, of course, is a very ancient Christian symbol. I don’t know what the liver represented to the biblical writer, but in Indonesian the liver represents the seat of one’s emotions, love and will, just as we speak of the heart in English, Latin and other languages. So the Sacred Heart in Indonesian is Hati Kudus. (Hati, despite a superficial similarity to our word Heart, actually means Liver, and Kudus derives from an Arabic cognate of Hebrew Kodesh, Holy.)

    In my quote above from Tobias, I used Knox. Knox, Douay and the Vulgate have Tobias burning only the liver. The Septuagint, KJV, RSV and Indonesian TB have Tobias burning both the fish’s heart and its liver. A burning heart, or a burning “hati” reminds one of depictions of the Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart. There is an obvious connection there with the expulsion of demons. Asmodeus is a demon of lust (Milton’s “enamoured” is euphemistic) , so one can see the application to the present crisis.

  15. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I dont have a great sense of the size of your sardines, I am curious.

    [In the top photo you see half of a lemon. Farther down, look at the size of the thyme sprigs, the chunks of garlic cloves.]

  16. SanSan says:

    Love the “cooking and sermon” Father Z. You are quite entertaining. Nice to read something for a change that is uplifting during such strife.

  17. Lux de Coelo says:

    Oily as a conference of bishops


  18. Fallibilissimo says:

    @Grant M
    Thanks for that! That’s very interesting. I have to look up more about this, you’ve tickled my curiosity.

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