Pan-Fried Sardines
Chicago Tribune Magazine May 23, 2004 Article by Leah Eskin

1 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
16 fresh sardine fillets

  • 1. Season the rice flour with salt and pepper. Dredge sardine fillets. Shake off excess flour.
  • Heat the oil in a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add sardines, skin side down, and cook until crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook another 2 minutes. Drain briefly on paper towels.
  • Line up the fillets over a dollop of aioli on four plates. Top with a big spoonful of tapenade and garnish with crispy serrano chips (recipes follow). Enjoy with three good friends and a bottle of fruity rose.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wrap 6 whole peeled cloves of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of saltin tin foil. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Crack one whole pasteurized egg into the bowl of a food processor. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in 1 cup extra virgin olive oil. Add the roasted garlic, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. (Or simply mix roasted garlic, lemon juice and pepper into prepared mayonnaise.)


Give your best knife a workout mincing 4 ounces pitted picholine olives, 1/2 clove garlic, 1 teaspoon capers, 2 anchovy fillets, 1/2 shallot and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Stop casting sidelong stares at the food processor. It doesn't have the deft touch you require. Mix in 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Season with pepper. Blend until smooth. (Or simply mix roasted garlic, lemon juice and pepper into prepared mayonnaise.)

Serrano Chips

Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Make a simple syrup by bringing to a boil 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small heavy saucepan. Cover and simmer gently for two minutes. Cool. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out 8 paper-thin slices of serrano ham. Brush each with simply syrup. Cover with a second piece of parchment paper and another baking sheet. Bake until crisp, about 50 minutes. To achieve Avec's casual, if awkward, presentation, top each plate of sardines with a whole chip. For a more manageable version, break into shards and scatter.