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Thursday, July 24, 2014 (read 3609 times)

Spanish Sardines and Anchovies

by David

Sardines and Anchovies = Summer Love

Nothing says summer in Spain more than sardines and anchovies. Forget about the beach, the sun, glorious mountains and superb museums. Here in Spain the stomach is king and in the summer there are typical dishes that just scream "summer"! Whether they are called boquerones, bocartes, sardinas, zapateras, manolas, parpujas o anchoas, the pleasure that these treats give the eater is simply incredible.

Sardines and anchovies go far beyond the salted and tinned eats that we are so used to find in the stores. In addition to those, in Spain it is easy to find them sold fresh in differing sizes from tiny sized to 11 inch beasts. Many times you can buy sardines freshly caught and packed in a rustic wooden crate ready to take home. These sardines are ideal for cooking over a barbeque. Another popular way of eating these sardines is by going to local beach chiringuito and ordering an espeto de sardinas. These are Mediterranean sardines that have placed vertically on a stake and slow roasted over hot embers.

The high oil content of this fish, which is incredibly healthy since it is a natural source of Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 which helps the nervous system function correctly, means that cooking this fish over coals or embers is ideal for getting the most flavor out of this delicacy. Of course, you'll want to accompany this with a nice and tasty beverage, so why don't we recommend a nice wheat beer made by one of the new micro-breweries that are springing up all over Spain or you can go the classic route with a nice glass of Spanish Cava or white wine from Rueda.

Anchovies are very particular here in Spain since there are Anchoas, Bocartes and boquerones. Many times these names are changed depending on where you are—sometimes a boquerón in one place is a bocarte in another.

Generally speaking when someone speaks to you about anchoas they are usually referring to the preserved and salted anchovy that we are used to eating. Here, there is a great variety of quality anchovies and many times people will look for a specific brand or place of origin. Some of the most famous anchovies in conserve come from the tiny Basque village of Guetaria. There, the anchovies are caught in the Bay of Biscay and are prepared and placed in tins by hand right as soon as they get off the boat: a process that hasn't changed in over a hundred years. Anchoas from Santoña, Cantabria are also highly prized.

A great way of eating this delicacy is by quickly running the fillets under water, drying them off and arranging them on a platter. Next, pour the best Spanish extra virgin olive you have over them along with some fresh herbs and garlic and you'll have the ideal appetizer. A nice Txacoli wine to accompany always goes well.

Generally speaking the boquerón and bocarte are the same fish. If you've ever stepped into a Spanish bar you've surely seen a platter with delicate fillets marinating in vinegar, olive oil and garlic inside the refrigerated glass display case containing the bars selection of cold tapas. Those little fillets are boquerones (or fresh anchovies). If you want an excellent recipe on how to make this typically Spanish dish take a look at this one.

The only downside to enjoying boquerones is cleaning them. Since they are so small and delicate you have to be careful not to destroy them with your hands. Remove their heads, the insides and cut them in half—that's it. Don't worry about removing the bones or tail, those things go down nicely. In theory it sounds pretty straight forward, but in practice, well…it takes practice.

In some places, like Asturias and Galicia, when you hear the word bocartes they are probably referring to the same fish but instead of being marinated they are fried. The great thing about this preparation is that you only need to clean the outside of the fish and remove the insides since these little anchovies are eaten whole (the head is optional). In the south of Spain around Cádiz or El Puerto de Santa Maria, there is a famous dish called pescaíto frito or fried fish. These are actually bocartes but they are prepared in such a way that they are not greasy and they are very, very tasty.

To make fry these tasty treats, dredge the cleaned fish in all purpose flour blended with a little chickpea (garbanzo) flour (the blend should be about 3 to 1). The chickpea flour adds a little crunchiness to the coating. Dust off any excess flour and fry in very hot olive oil (as hot as possible without burning the oil), when browned remove, pat off any excess oil and eat as quickly as quickly as possible.

A nice beer goes well with any of these preparations.

So now you have an idea as to why summer is not summer without enjoying some of these easily accessible and healthy Spanish delicacies. If you decide to try any of these recipes remember, freshness is king and buying and eating these fish is best done on the same day.

Keywords: spanish dishes,spanish dish,spanish sardines,summer in spain,spanish anchovies,typical spanish dishes,spanish delicacies,mediterranean sardines

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