A dear friend is on the mend after a hugely courageous battle w/the devil incarnate, the big C. On a recent visit we got to talking and reminiscing about fine or ‘better’ dining & a few of our favorite restaurants when I reminded him about my wish that we may soon visit Bacaro – the Venetian influenced restaurant. On Division Street which lives up to it’s name, dividing the LES & CHINATOWN. Bacaro I learn is where you go for small bites in Venice.
My friend who is Venetian begins to peruse the online menu, mumbling, “ Fried oysters, now No, that is not Venetian”. There was something else that got the Oh No, until he ran across the black squid ink pasta. I tell him that’s what I had when a friend brought me here for my birthday and it was killer.
This goes on a little while longer when he says, “ They have no Saor – pronounced and sounds like our word, sour. I immediately ask, “What’s that?” to which he replies, “A very traditional Venetian dish. My mother used to make for me that I love.” “So what is it? “. “Itsza fried sardines with melted onions and vinegar, left in the refrigerator over night and eaten at room temperature, often with polenta”
I looked up a recipe online immediately, top one in the, needless to say Google search, was an Italian recipe. As I’m reading through & now mumbling I ask, ” Well what about the raisins & pine nuts?” “No, I do not like that. My mother never made it that way.”
Shortly there after I was on my way w/a crisp $20 in my pocket to buy us some fresh sardines to make us Saor.
Here’s were another chapter or the podcast VO will come in – in the near future. Suffice to say, procurement of fresh sardines in January or maybe anytime of the year is almost analogous to trying to find or buy four leaf clovers. I learn this after calls to Dean & Deluca, 2 Whole Foods and then I call my Man Vito, the representative, sales man for the largest Sea Food purveyor in NYCity. Even after a conference call with a friend of his, Frankie maybe, a visit to Chinatown seemed to be the answer . Again, stay tuned here for updates about the podcast of this episode here.
I made my way down to Chinatown but not before arming myself with the word for sardines in Mandarin on my phone. My go to fish mart is on Grand & Christie. They know me because this is where I buy my quahogs & clams for my Clamdestinations Air B& B Experience.
I ask, you got it, “Do you have fresh sardines? While pointing at the hanzi on my phone. His head just shook No. Know anyone that might? No. “ when he points to the freezer case pointing and saying, “Fresh frozen”. I grabbed the 1#bag for $6.
Even tho he told me to Defrost in water I knew better. I had to work fast; sliced open the bag & poured the little smelly fishes into my blue bowl, in the fridge with a towel over them & the bag they came in – straight to the garbage. Even frozen their odor is almost impossible. It took a good full 24 hours until the sardines were ready to be worked with & work it is, I must have filleted at least 8 whole sardines. I’ll spare you the gory Dtails & entrails
The recipe is simple:
1-2#s – (fresh) Sardines – Filleted
1 C Flour + 1 Ts Baking Powder
1 C Vinegar
Raisins & pine nuts – optional
What I did
Lightly dusted the sardine fillets in the flour & baking powder then fried them off in enough olive oil to well coat the bottom of the pan.
Cool & drain the fried fillets on (brown) paper Then very thinly slice at least 4-5 onions. I cooked these off in the same pan I fried the fillets in with a enough olive oil to well coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and cook over a medium heat until they are well melted at least 20 mins. then add a cup of vinegar. Continue cooking to well marry the favors. Let this cool.
Now begin to layer the fried sardines, then a layer of the onions, so on & so fourth. I got maybe two layers of each, fish & onions. Cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down any way you conjure up. Put into the fridge and forget about it for a day or two. After one full day, my friend couldn’t wait any more. I got the big thumbs up and a fabulous dinner at Bacaro, but here in Manhattan.
You can be sure this recipe will see a redux – as soon as I can get my hands on fresh sardines.
I’m not sure I’d try this at home. Not really a recipe for survival. It’s a nice food memoir per me.