Sardines are plentiful in the Adriatic, and we eat a lot of them in Venice. One of the most common ways, and one of the most famous traditional Venetian preparations, is what we call in saor. This term refers to a method of lightly dusting sardines in flour, then pan-frying them and serving in a sauce of vinegar, bay leaves, peppercorns, raisins, and pine nuts. Here is a fresh, slightly mellower play on those same flavors, in which I’ve stuffed the sardines with raisins, pine nuts, and plenty of bread crumbs, splashed them with white wine, and roasted them gently in the oven. These are light and fresh, and I might serve them with anything from a crisp green salad—dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, squeeze of lemon, and pinch of salt—in the summer, to a generous dollop of runny polenta in the winter.
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
- Lay the fillets in a large baking dish, drizzle the vinegar over them, crumble in the bay leaves and sprinkle the peppercorns on top. Cover and let rest for about 30 minutes.
- Roughly chop 1 1⁄2 tablespoons of the pine nuts (saving the rest for later) and put them in a large bowl with the bread crumbs and approximately 1 tablespoon of the raisins. Squeeze in most of the lemon juice, then drizzle in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. You want to make a stiff stuffing; if it feels too soft, add more bread crumbs.
- Remove the bay leaves and peppercorns from the fish, carefully spoon a layer of the stuffing over the top of half the fillets, then sandwich on top of each stuffed fillet a second fillet of fish. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining lemon juice over the fish, and pour over the white wine. Sprinkle on the remaining 1⁄2 tablespoon of pine nuts and 1 teaspoon of raisins, and cover the dish with foil.
- Roast for 5 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 5 minutes more, until cooked through. Gently lift each stuffed sardine out of the roasting dish and arrange on a platter before serving.
Reprinted with permission from A Table in Venice copyright © 2018 by Skye McAlpine. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.