Simple, quick and delicious, grilling on the plancha is perhaps THE arch-typical cooking technique of southwestern of France. A plancha is a heavy, flat-topped grill, and in the southwest, one cooks most everything on it. Sausages, whole fish, shellfish (if you see razor clams on the plancha on a menu, order it!), chicken, duck hearts, the possibilities are endless. Cooking on the plancha is so popular that almost every kitchen supply store sells them, in gas, electric or even for your BBQ. And very often, when cooking something on the plancha, it is prepared “en persillade”, which means finished with garlic, parsley and lemon juice (and usually a sprinkling of piment d’Espelette).
For you culinary hair-splitters, a traditional persillade should be cooked with diced fat from jambon de Bayonne. However, I think that using olive oil delivers a cleaner, purer flavor.
Here is one of my favorite plancha-persillade recipes, and also my favorite way to cook sardines – hold on, is that true? There are so many great ways to cook sardines. Lets say that, along with escabèche, this is my favorite way to cook fresh sardines (as opposed to conserves) when they are in season (and yes, for you West Coast types, there is a season for Pacific sardines, usually mid summer). If you don’t have a flat-topped grill (who does?), a heavy cast iron skillet works great. I served these as a main course with roasted tomatoes and a green salad.
SARDINES A LA PLANCHA EN PERSILLADE
Sardines, use only very fresh fish
Salt and pepper
- Gut, clean and rinse the sardines well. Dry well on paper towels. Season with salt, pepper and piment d’Espelette.
- Peel the garlic, remove the germ if necessary and chop very finely. Juice the lemon. Stem the parsley and chop roughly.
- Heat olive oil to cover the bottom of a cast iron skillet until hot but not smoking. Cook the sardines until very nicely browned on both sides and cooked through. If they are large, cover the skillet during browning so that the fish cook through.
- Removed the cooked sardines and keep warm. Off the heat, wipe out the skillet and then add fresh olive oil (this will be your sauce for the sardines, so be generous), heat gently then add the garlic. Stir continuously until the garlic is lightly toasted. Add the chopped parsley, season with salt, pepper and piment d’Espelette then de-glaze with a generous amount of lemon juice.
- Check the sauce seasoning, then pour over the sardines. Serve immediately with lots of crusty bread.