Il n’y a pas de poison dans les poissons
There’s no poison in fish. That sounds so simple in English, but I remember the phrase as the first big error I made on a French test, ever so many years ago. Never mind how many years ago.
And even today, I’m finding the whole business of French fish baffling. These fresh sardines were pressed upon me, practically forced upon me, and for free. The fish guy, Monsieur le poissonnier, is either taking me under his wing or trying to get me to quit shopping at his stand forever. In his southern-accented French that I can barely follow, he insists that I need twice as much fish as I think I need. Every time. And the stuff is expensive too, about $14-18 a pound, just like it would be at home. But this time, close to the end of the market, he gave me a big discount, 7 Euros per kilo of discount on loup de mer, which is about $5 a pound in discount on a really delicious fish. And then in addition he piled this mass of sardines into a bag and made me adopt them. What can it all mean?
For me it meant learning to clean sardines. For me it meant thinking of Fish Head Pie, aka Stargazy Pie, where the fish heads are all pointed up toward the heavens. My fish heads were less inspired, landing willy-nilly in Beppo’s dish.
Let me report that while Beppo enjoys raw sardine fillets, he utterly disdains fish heads. Perhaps he would have enjoyed them in a pie, but in their natural state of decapitation, non, merci.
And then I had to do something with the sardines. And that something turned out to be this delicious recipe for Sardines Napolitano which I chose because I had a bunch of fresh mint in the fridge.
Here’s my translation. Crispy fried sardine pieces marinated in a wine and vinegar reduction with lots of fresh mint, on a salad with mint, tomatoes, and a few bits of hot pepper for good measure. Ok, that was definitely worth all the mess and soucis with the fish cleaning. I might even pay for them next time.
You can read more about my fish head fascination right here.