Updated on April 21, 2016
by Roz Cummins
I don’t know why, but the phrase “sardine sandwich” conjures up images of the Depression for me. Maybe I grew up watching too many cartoons from that era featuring hobos eating tins of sardines as they rode the rails, or maybe it’s because I have childhood memories of my dad – who grew up during the Depression and spoke of it often – showing me how to use the special “key” that came with the sardine tin to open it. (We often had sardines on toast for lunch on Saturdays.) Once I left home, though, I rarely had occasion to eat sardines.
Now, however, they are reentering my dining rotation for three reasons: they are an excellent choice from an environmental perspective, they are extremely nutritious, and they are cheap source of protein – a culinary hat trick!
Sardines, along with anchovies and herring, are abundant. They are small fish and low on the food chain (they feed solely on plankton) which means that don’t eat other fish containing mercury or PCB’s, so they are not bio-accumulating these toxins. Nutritionally speaking, they are high in vitamins B and D, selenium, Omega 3 fatty acids, protein, phosphorus, and calcium. Some people really, really love canned sardines, but for others, it’s a hard sell – my office mates, for example.
When I announced that I would be doing a blog post on sardine sandwiches – and making one at the office for everyone to taste – suddenly I was the only one who would be in the office that day. Coincidence??? Well, yes, actually, it was a coincidence, but when I emailed everyone and asked if they wanted me to make one on another day, the answers I got ranged from a polite “No, thank you,” to a more pointed “Negative.” As I said, sardines can be a hard sell.
Fortunately, my friend Susan Russo just published The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches, which includes a nice recipe for zesty sardine sandwiches. Her recipe, though easy and straightforward, raises the sardine sandwich to an art through the addition of a little bit of spicy mustard, lemon juice, chopped onion, hard boiled eggs, and a touch of mayo (and, of course, a bit of salt and pepper.)
Susan herself cautions, “Be aware that briny sardines and raw onions are a robust combination; even its most ardent admirers will tell you that the smell is as powerful as the flavor. If you’re indulging in this sandwich for lunch, you may want to keep a tin of breath mints nearby.” Okay, so it’s not the perfect thing to eat before, say, a first date. It is, however, very tasty and good for you, and it has a light environmental footprint.
from Susan Russo’s Encyclopedia of Sandwiches
Makes one sandwich
2 ounces oil-packed boneless, skinless, sardines, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon spicy mustard
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 thin slices rye bread
2 teaspoons mayonnaise, optional
1 tablespoon finely chopped red or white onion
2 slices hard-boiled egg, optional
1. In a small bowl, mix chopped sardines, spicy mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until combined. Spread on 1 slice of bread (with or without mayo.)
2. Top with chopped onions and, if using, egg slices. Close sandwich.