Alpine Favourite, or Sardine Sandwiches

Eleanor was a strict Catholic. Her family emigrated from Poland not long before she was born, and as a first-generation citizen, she took the role of religion in her everyday life very seriously in the way that only a newly-minted American can. When Eleanor was on vacation, she searched out Catholic churches to attend on Sundays so that she would never miss a week of mass. In the letters that Wilbur, her husband, wrote to her during World War II, he frequently assures her that he's attending church every week so she needn't worry about his soul. When I was a kid I loved looking at the stack of funeral cards that belonged to Eleanor, and which my mom kept tucked into my grandpa's Bible, each of them with a beautiful (I thought) painting of Mary on one side and a prayer for the soul of the departed on the other. Eleanor had a saint for everything, so it should come as no surprise that my mom was in her twenties before she ever ate meat on a Friday. Lent or no, Eleanor served fish on Fridays and would sooner have eaten the paint on the walls than meat on a Friday.

I learned a new thing!

I learned a new thing!

So although I can't imagine her ever going through the work that this sandwich requires for her entire family, it's possible she did. And if she did, it would have been on a Friday.

Sardines get a really bad rap, and I'm not gonna try to defend the canned ones, because tinned fish overall is a touchy subject. My mom is probably already so grossed out by this concept that she's already stopped reading, but hear me out on this one: there's a reason sardines persist in grocery stores, cartoons, and restaurant menus (at least in the UK), and it's because they're a relatively cheap but still totally delicious fish. The fact that they come in tins is sort of irrelevant, and it means you don't have to cook them, which is grand.

The weird thing is that this recipe is called 'Alpine Favourite,' when I'm pretty sure sardines live in saltwater and thus not particularly near the Alps.

Plus, I learned a new thing: how to sieve an egg yolk. It sounds like it would be simple, but since I only have one mesh strainer that's fairly large, it took a bit of getting used to. If you make this sandwich, to sieve the yolk, just hard-boil an egg until it's cooked all the way through-- no juicy yellow bit in the middle. For me, this was 8 minutes in boiling water, and then another 3 in the hot water left on the stove while I tended to other things. Peel your egg and cut it in half. Gently scoop out one yolk half at a time and place in the bottom of your strainer. Holding the strainer over the surface you want to cover in sieved egg and using the back of a spoon, press firmly but evenly on the yolk and let it sprinkle down onto the surface. Keep using smooth motions to press the entire yolk through until there is none left, then do the same thing with the other half of the yolk. Note that you can't really re-locate sieved egg once it's been sprinkled somewhere, so try to do it directly over the surface where you want it to be.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. The sandwich was just a little bit dry, but I'll fix that next time with a bit more mustard. Seriously, give this one a try. The flavours play off of each other beautifully, with the hard-boiled egg, mustard, and cornichon accenting the sardines just perfectly. Honestly, it reminded me of every meal I ate in Copenhagen when we were there a few years ago, and trust me, that's a good thing.

the recipe:

Alpine Favourite, or, Sardine Sandwiches

the ingredients:

2 slices bread
Spicy English Mustard
Leaf lettuce
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 cornichon pickles, sliced lengthwise
1 tin best-quality sardines
1 egg, hard-boiled

THE Directions:

Toast the bread.
Spread with mustard and lay a leaf or two of lettuce over it.
Add cheese (preferably sliced into triangles), cornichons, and 1 ½ sardines per sandwich.
Sieve the hard-boiled egg yolk over the open-faced sandwich, top with the other slice of toast, and enjoy.

Yields 2 open-faced sandwiches, perfect for dinner with a salad.