I’ve been looking at ways to bring a little more calcium and protein into our diet, and for some reason decided sardines would be a great way to do that. Now, theoretically, they are indeed an excellent solution. However, I’ve never actually eaten a sardine, and I’m not really a “fish” person in general, so I find myself somewhat baffled that I suddenly chose sardines as the way to go.
Even crazier, I decided an excellent introduction to sardines would be through a retro recipe.
(I have clearly learned absolutely nothing over the last couple of years.)
SARDINES AND SCALLOPED POTATOES
Costs 40 cents (November 1952)
4 servings Woman’s Day Kitchen
1 15-ounce can sardines
6 cups diced, cooked potato
1 can cream-of-celery soup
1/2 cup diluted evaporated milk
Drain sardines; reserve liquid. Put potato in greased, shallow, 2-quart casserole. Combine celery soup, milk, and sardine liquid; heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Pour over potato. Sprinkle with crumbs and paprika. Bake in moderate oven, 350°F., 20 minutes. Top with sardines; bake 10 minutes longer.
This doesn’t actually look all that bad. Well, unless you’re me. I don’t like much seafood, and I’ve never been able to bring myself to actually open a can of sardines to see what’s inside. (If Buzz orders the occasional anchovy pizza, I make him eat it in another room, or preferably outside. Poor guy.)
This was my damn idea, so I braced myself and opened up the sardine can, and promptly fell to pieces. One sardine had a length of spine sticking out of its neck, left over from the decapitation process presumably. As I fled the kitchen, I begged Buzz to debone them for me, and I’d be back in a minute.
A few deep breaths and I returned to start working on some non-fish thing.
I took one look at the results of Buzz’s deboning efforts and had to leave the kitchen again.
Moving on to something I can actually stand to look at, here are some lovely buttered breadcrumbs browning in a pan. Mmmmm.
(Actually, they were pretty bland. But at least they’re not vertebrae!)
Cream of celery soup isn’t all that bad, but mixed with sardine juice, you get fishy cream of celery soup. This is a bad flavor combination.
Adding a heavy dose of paprika helps the breadcrumbs pick up some flavor. No doubt this level of spice would horrify the 1950’s housewife.
Buzz laid the fish on top, since I still was completely unable to touch them.
I did request at least half the casserole be covered with sardine flakes, rather than whole fish. Given my reaction just to the visuals, I knew I wouldn’t be able to actually put my fork into an unbroken sardine.
And then, unfortunately, after an all-too-short baking process, it was time to eat this.
Heaven help me.
What utterly shocked me about this was who enjoyed it. The kids and I had the sardine flakes, while Buzz had a serving from the whole-fish section of the casserole. My son took one look and declared he hated it. (He does this for everything that isn’t cheese, though.) My daughter took one look and eagerly cried, “Is that TUNA FISH?”
“Um… Yes, yes, it’s tuna fish.” And she starting stuffing her face. This kid never stuffs her face, she’s dainty and picky. She thought the fish tasted amazing, the potatoes were pretty good, and she even asked for an extra fish. Meanwhile, Buzz, the fan of sardines, was slowly taking bites while trying to ignore the flavor.
So this is pretty hit-or-miss. Don’t make it if you hate sardines, don’t mix the fish juice into the potatoes, and consider a small batch rather than a whole casserole. It may be an affordable family meal, but it’s expensive dog food!
This and other terrifying sardine recipes are originally from Woman’s Day 1952, and have been preserved online by Curly Wurly. Thanks? 😉