Sardines “a beccafico”
This recipe is from the Monsù, French trained chefs, who were in service at the homes of the rich and noble Sicilian families between the 18th and 19th century. The main ingredient of this haute cuisine recipe is the “ beccafico”: a gluttonous bird that in summer binges on figs making it become fat and very tasty. The servants at the homes of noble families could not afford such an expensive meat so they reproduced the dish using filled sardines, shaping them similarly to the small birds. There are many versions of the filling and of the way they are presented: in western Sicily the filling is inside one sardine which is rolled and cooked in the oven; while in eastern Sicily the filling is between two sardines – a chiappa.
The following recipe is for the former: buon appetito!
Clean 1 kg. of sardines, leaving the fillets opened by their tail like an open book. In a bowl mix together 100 gr. of fried breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, the grated peel of a lemon, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 3 tablespoons of Sicilian pecorino cheese, garlic and parsley, 50 gr. of sultanas, 50 gr. of pine nuts, salt and pepper to taste. Place a small amount of filling on a sardine and cover with another. Dip in beaten egg and then in breadcrumbs and fry in deep hot oil. They’ll be delicious!