It all happened very quickly. My friend Jimmy IMed me and asked what we were up to, we said nada, decided to all go to a movie but first, I invited him over for dinner. “It won’t be fancy,” I warned. “Probably just some pasta.” (I had penne in the cabinet and cauliflower in the refrigerator, so I knew I could make this recipe, minus the broccoli.) But after the plan was set, my hosting gene kicked in and I felt the need to also make a dessert and an appetizer. The dessert? I’ll tell you about that later. But the appetizer came together in no time, and it had everything to do with having three ingredients on hand: spicy mustard, a box of Triscuits and a can of sardines.
Now if you’re squeamish about sardines from a can, I thought I was right there with you. I always think of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” that scene where he’s in the train car with a hobo and the hobo offers him a sardine. It’s meant to be gross, isn’t it? I’ve had high-end sardines at fancy restaurants, where the sardines are not from a can but fresh sardines grilled right there in the kitchen. But sardines from a can? No thank you, I’d rather not.
That is until last week, at the grocery store, I saw sardines on the shelf and I thought to myself: “These might be good to have around, wouldn’t they? Doesn’t Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef at Prune (one of my favorite restaurants in New York) serve Triscuits, Mustard and Sardines as a bar snack? I think she does!”
So I bought them. And I bought a box of Triscuits. (I already had the mustard.) And sure enough, with Jimmy coming over in just a few minutes, I now had the ingredients for a quick, unusual appetizer. As for a recipe, do you really need one? I think it’s kind of self-explanatory:
The sardines weren’t fancy sardines, but I bet if you went to a fancy store you could get fancy sardines. The mustard was Roland French mustard, which I highly recommend. And the Triscuits? Were, well, Triscuits.
Once assembled, I tasted one and a smile quickly alighted on my face. “These are good!” I said to no one in particular. And they were. Once out of the can, you’d never know the sardines were sardines. Their texture reminded me more of crab than any fish, and with the mustard and the Triscuit they make a cheap, delectable snack that pairs great with wine.
When Jimmy came, I warned him: “You may be a little squeamish when I tell you what these are,” I said, probably unnecessarily, as I offered him the plate.
“It’s not offal, is it?” he asked.
“Nope!” I assured him. “It’s sardines, Triscuits and mustard.”
“Oh, that’s fine,” he said, popping one into his mouth. “These are good!”
Craig thought so too. And they were a cinch to make. And did I mention cheap?
So next time you’re at the store, and you walk past the sardines with your nose in the air, don’t be such a snob. Buy a can, buy a box of Triscuits and some mustard. When you get home, put them away. Maybe you’ll never touch them. But more likely, you’ll break ’em out one day, grateful that you had them on hand and surprised, when you taste them together, how good they are.