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Buying & cleaning sardines (moved from Boston board)

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Let's discuss "cleaning" sardines...I've bought them at Whole Foods, and their cleaning seems to entail removing so much of the inside that they feel hollow. When I've gotten them in restaurants, they seem to leave quite a few organs in there, and they taste just fine (Had some last week at Akroplis in Peabody...mmmmmm)...What does one ask for, or do real fish markets know what to leave, unlike Whole Foods?

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  1. I clean them myself using the method James Peterson describes in his Fish & Shellfish. Basically, pinch the gills on both sides at the base of the head and twist off the head. Usually, the innards will also pull out. If they don't, slide your finger along the belly cavity and wipe it clean. Judy Rogers describes the procedure almost exactly the same way in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

    1. I do it the same way. And I would trust any fish from Whole Foods enough to leave any organs in, especially not in a high oil fish like sardines.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JudiAU

        This seems to say that you WOULD trust WF and you would NOT trust WF... Did you leave out "not" in the first part of the sentence?

        I've cleaned sardines a few times and it IS easy. They are so delicious. People are amazed after only having tasted them canned.

        1. re: oakjoan

          Sorry-- typo. I would NOT trust Whole Foods enough to eat fish raw/with innards/etc.

      2. But I LIKE the heads; when you broil them in a smokin' oven, they're crunchy and crispy.....

        1 Reply
        1. re: galleygirl

          Madeleine Kamman has a recipe that calls for the heads to be left on, but she doesn't say how to clean them. I'm sure you can just slit or cut the belly and scoop the guts out. On the other hand, if you like the heads and don't mind the guts, why bother at all?

        2. Just checking to make sure I wasn't eating something horribly poisonous...;)
          I remember the ones I had in Portugal all had guts...

          1. Jean Anderson (my authority in all things Portuguese because I have no other)in her recipe for Grilled Sardines in The Food of Portugal calls for the sardines to be "cleaned, dressed, and boned, but with the heads and tails left on." Boned? Life is too short. Perhaps she was just catering to a U.S. market. And I do remember buying grilled sardines during the Atlantic Antic in Brooklyn and they were neither beheaded nor gutted. But I wussed out. I just ate around the bone, sort of like corn on the cob.