Our most recent edition of Choice Cuts was all about La Serenissima, and in that city of canals, one eats a lot of fish.
I somehow failed to get any pictures of the baccalà mantecato, but our token Venetian confirms that it holds up to the standard. Eating whipped salt cod on grilled polenta is like wrapping your tongue in a Snuggie (that’s a good thing), and the dish is actually pretty easy to put together. It just requires a little forethought — the cod needs a few days of soaking so you can keep all your teeth (and your mixer can keep its motor intact).
Sarde in saor, on the other hand, is a giant pain in the ass. Not only because the dish requires several days to complete, but because it turns out filleting sardines is not really as easy as the internet would make it seem. (Corollary: Filleting sardines to feed 20 is no fun.) But I love this dish, whose name is Venetian for “sardines in flavor” or “sardines in tastiness” and very apt.
Filleted sardines get a roll in some flour and then are deep fried.
Meanwhile, onions get stewed for a while in vinegar with raisins and pine nuts.
Alternate layers of onions with sardines in a big (ideally ceramic) vessel. Cover it and leave it in the fridge for two or three days.
Mangia. And then hunt down a fishmonger or friend skilled in filleting for next time.