Folks, I've got to tell you that I am a late convert to the glorious deliciousness of sardines. Granted, there are good ones and bad ones out there, but, in a pinch they deliver a deeper and healthier seafood experience than canned tuna. (Alton Brown has popularized the little fish during his recent diet success.) Since they are packaged in convenient tins, they make great emergency rations, but it helps to know how to prepare them ahead of time.
Recently I took a tin of the Brunswick Sardines in Tomato & Basil and posited a little challenge for myself: delicious dinner in 5 minutes that doesn't rely on any modern technology. I mentioned "survival" at the top, because this only involves heating water. I'm fine with disappearing for weeks in the woods and eating bugs (seriously, termites taste like carrots, ants taste like lemon drops), but there are lots of situations where very simple methods can produce a delicious meal, like this. And it really was delicious. I've been to Italy, dined on the coasts, and while I've had much better seafood/pasta dishes, I've also had worse. The curse and blessing of dining in a small fishing town is the daily catch. If the fishermen had a bad day, you're going to be eating some nasty seafood.
If you can heat up water, either on a BBQ grill or over a candle, you can cook angel hair pasta. Why? Because it's very thin and only takes a minute or so to cook. Heat water up to boiling, dump in the angel hair, stir a little, and you're done. Much faster, easier, and efficient than beans, rice, or thicker pasta. Drain out the water using your fork as a strainer, then dump in the tin of sardines in tomato basil sauce. Stir lightly until warmed through, and you're done. The result is an improvised pasta con sarde that's salty, savory, pleasantly fishy, and the quickly cooked and sauced pasta is leaps and bounds above your Chef Boyardee canned varieties.
The wine is the 2007 Mandrarossa Fiano, a full-bodied white wine from Sicily. $12, 13% abv. Pure Fiano grape. It's got a lush and thick profile with lots of fruit. Which fruits? It's not a complex wine, but I got some overripe apple and peach, and there was also a magnolia blossom element to the wine as well. It's a good strong Italian white, if you're in the mood for that style. I served it in a Ball Mason jar just to continue the emergency rations theme. (If you don't have an ice chest for some of your perishables, you can chill your wine by wrapping it in a wet towel or wet newspapers and allow evaporative cooling to do its magic.)
Reviewing some other sardine cans: The Beach Cliff Fish Steaks with Louisana Hot Sauce were disappointing. Cross-sections of herring slathered in hot sauce. There's too much of the hot sauce and it's not a great compliment to the fish. I enjoy a dash of hot sauce with canned fish, but I prefer to use the right sauce for the right occasion and moderate its use. Plus, hot sauce fresh out of the bottle has a bright and refreshing acidity to it. After it's been sitting in a tin with fish for months or years it becomes flabby and uninteresting. I ended up adding Dijon mustard to this, but it didn't help much. Definitely have to eat these with crackers.
I mentioned the Beach Cliff Sardines in Mustard Sauce in a prior post, but after trying some different varieties they're still my favorite. Something about that cheap yellow mustard just goes so well with the fillets. It's probably the most balanced of the three, and stands well on its own. With crackers or toasted points of rye, the sardines are even better, but you can eat these straight from the tin if the situation requires it.