After reading Mary Sue Milliken's recollections in the pages of this month's SAVEUR on her time spent in Mandelieu-La Napoule (on the French Riviera), and her discovery of sardines as a versatile ingredient, I had to try one of her preparations. She recalls picking up fresh sardines at local markets, cleaning and filleting them, then layering them with herbs and salt to cure.
When she returned to the States, she had not lost her taste for sardines, though often turned toward readily available (and inexpensive) tinned varieties to inspire her many recipes.
I learned the term sardine is used loosely to define over 20 different kinds of small, oily fish from the Clupeidae family. This includes pilchards, sprat, and herring, and other foraging fish low on the oceanic food chain.
I have written about sardines before, how they are a wise choice when selecting which seafood to consume, not only in their population stability but they are also low in mercury while still providing essential nutritional properties. Plus, they taste good, not that the rich flavor is for everyone. But for those who enjoy a wide spectrum of flavor provided by the sea, this dip of Mary Sue's is foolproof. She mentions whipping up this dish for parties, an excellent last-minute and affordable idea. Next time the weather is cool, I will put this preparation in a shallow ceramic dish, sprinkle with panko and heat in the oven until bubbly hot. You can't go wrong.
Wood Smoked Brisling Sardine Dip:
*1 package organic cream cheese
*1 package smoked brisling sardines, packed in olive oil, drained
*1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
*Tabasco to taste
Place first 3 ingredients in a food processor fitted with a blade. Blend until smooth. Add dashes of Tabasco sauce to taste.
Enjoy on crostini, or with fresh cut vegetables.
*Variation: Place dip in oven safe ceramic crock and cover with panko bread crumbs. Bake at 375 until bread crumbs turn golden and contents are heated through (about 10 minutes). Serve with toasts or crostini.