Thursday, June 11, 2009
St. Anthony and the Fish
It is said that St. Anthony was a amazing preacher and as mentioned in the earlier St. Anthony post one legend indicates that even the fish rose from the water to hear his sermon.
No sooner had he spoken a few words when suddenly so great a multitude of fish, both small and great, approached the bank on which he stood. All the fish kept their heads out of the water, and seemed to be looking attentively on St Anthony's face; all were ranged in perfect order and most peacefully, the smaller ones in front near the bank, after them came those a little bigger, and last of all, were the water was deeper, the largest.
As he continued speaking, the fish began to open their mouths and bow their heads, endeavoring as much as was in their power to express their reverence. The people of the city, hearing of the miracle, made haste to go and witness it.
This weekend we will celebrate his feast day, June 13. He is called St. Anthony of Padua, as he is known for his service in Italy, but he was born in Portugal and a proud Portuguese people celebrate his feast ever year in great style. The feast there is knowns as Festos dos Santos Populares in Lisbon.
Having been a people who depended heavily on the sea for food and commerce, the Portuguese have a fondness for fish in their popular festivities. A major staple of the festos (feast day) is grilled sardines. All over Lisbon people grill and consume them. It is said that sardines represented those miraculous fish and were an important part of the festivities. The opening of sardine season coincides with the Feast of St. Anthony.
Sardines are a group of several types of small, fish related to herrings, and were named after the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, where they were once in abundance. The term is not precise, and varies by region; for instance, to many people a sardine is a young European pilchard. Generally if the fish is under 4″ long (10 cm) it is classed as a sardine, and if larger than 4″ it is classed as a pilchard. There are 21 species that may be classed as sardines. (Wikipedia)
Until traveling to Spain with my mother, my experience with sardines was limited to the canned variety. Fresh sardines are nothing like the canned ones - I found them to be quite a treat. But it can be a challenge to find fresh sardines, especially if you are land locked like I am. You may have to settle for frozen ones but still preferable to canned.
Grilled Sardines – Portuguese Style
sardines, fresh, cleaned, heads and tails left on
salt, coarse (kosher or sea)
olive oil, extra-virgin
Rinse sardines under cold water, drain, and blot dry. Sprinkle some salt in the bottom of a baking dish. Arrange half the sardines on top and sprinkle with salt. Add another layer of sardines and sprinkle with salt. Cover and let cure in the salt, in the refrigerator, for about an hour.
When ready to grill, rinse salt off the sardines and blot. Brush the sardines with oil and season with pepper (optional). Oil the grill grate and arrange the fish on it. Grill the sardines until skins are lightly charred and the flesh is cooked to flakiness, 3 to 6 minutes per side. Serve hot. Remove the head and tail, and bones, before eating. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing. Pin It