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Marinated Sardine & Nduja Crostini

When Incanto chef Chris Cosentino went to Spain with his friend chef José Andrés, they ate a dish that combined sardines and sobrassada, a paprika-seasoned cured pork sausage. That pairing inspired this dish. The heat of the nduja, a spicy Calabrian pork salame, helps the flavor of the sardines to “pop”—a perfect balance of land and sea.

Ingredients:

  • 16 fresh sardine fillets
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes for sprinkling
  • 4 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 4 Tbs. dry white wine
  • Extra-virgin olive oil as needed
  • 3 to 4 oz. nduja, preferably Boccalone brand
  • 2 baby fennel bulbs
  • 1 bunch French breakfast radishes, trimmed
  • A few small wild arugula leaves
  • Fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 16 baguette slices, cut on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick, and grilled
  • 1 lemon

Directions:

In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, arrange some of the sardine fillets, skin side down, in a single layer (the number of fillets in each layer will depend on the size of the dish). At this point, estimate the number of sardine layers that you will have. Sprinkle the sardines with salt, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, thyme, parsley, bay leaves and wine so that each layer is sprinkled evenly with the ingredients. Repeat until you have layered all of the sardines and seasonings in the dish. Pour olive oil over the top until the fillets are completely immersed in the oil. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days.

When ready to serve, remove the sardine fillets from the marinade and discard the marinade. Let the sardines and the nduja come to room temperature.

Trim off the stalks from the fennel bulbs and set the fronds aside. Using a mandoline or other vegetable slicer, cut the radishes and fennel bulbs lengthwise paper-thin. Place the radish and fennel slices and the arugula in a small bowl, add the fennel fronds, and season with lemon juice, salt and black pepper.

Arrange the bread slices on a tray and rub the top of each slice with the whole lemon, releasing the natural oils of the zest to flavor the bread. Scoop the nduja out of its casing and spread a nice even layer on each bread slice. Lay a sardine fillet on top of the sausage, and then arrange a small amount of radish, fennel and arugula on each sardine. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a grind of black pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Beginnings, by Chris Cosentino (Olive Press, 2012).