Wood roasted local sardine and avocado toasts with pickled onions.
Brett Emerson is one of the most prolific chefs in San Francisco. At Contigo, the charming Spanish tapas restaurant in Noe Valley, the ever-changing menu gives habitués like me a chance to try something new, every time. But some dishes are too good (and too requested) to ever leave the menu. One of them is his simple roasted sardine.
Fresh Monterey sardines are filleted then roasted for a minute or so in the wood-burning oven. They are served over a toasted slice of baguette, creamy avocado purée and topped with pickled red onions. To finish, smoked sea salt is sprinkled over. A beautiful layering of colors, textures and flavors carefully balancing the acidity of the purée, sweetness of the onions and the salty smokiness of the sardines.
Below is the iPad-friendly photo essay and Brett's official recipe (a flash slideshow version is available here). Enjoy.
Roasted Local Sardine and Avocado Toasts
(serves 4 as appetizer)
8 fresh Monterey Bay sardines
2 ripe avocados, pureed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 sourdough baguette
16 rounds pickled red onions (recipe below)
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
smoked salt (find it here)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut sardines into individual fillets. Set aside in refrigerator until ready to cook.
3. Cut avocados in half and remove pits. Using a spoon, scoop avocado out of their skins. Puree with lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt to taste.
4. Slice baguette on angle into 1/4-inch thin oval slices the same length as your sardine fillets. Lay baguette toasts on baking sheet pan. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toast in preheated oven until toasts are golden brown and crisp.
5. Turn up oven to its highest setting. When ready to cook the sardines, spread the toasts liberally with avocado puree. Season lightly with salt and lay four toasts on four plates.
6. Season sardine fillets with salt. Oil pan with olive oil and lay sardines in pan, skin side up. Put pan in oven and roast, approximately 2-4 minutes, until the sardines are firm and just cooked through.
7. As soon as sardines are cooked, transfer one fillet on top of each toast. Top with a round of pickled onions. Season with smoked salt and serve.
For the Pickled Red Onions
2 cups vinegar, champagne
1 cup sugar
3 cup water
1/3 cup salt, Kosher
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seed
3 ea cloves
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 red onions, sliced thin
Combine all ingredients except onions and bring to a boil. Pour over red onions. Cool to room temperature, then chill. Best if pickled at least one day before using.