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Author Notes: This is a good way to sneak sardines onto the plates of unsuspecting souls. Wait for them to take a bite, ask them if they like it, and when they say yes, you can proclaim, "WELL IT'S FULL OF SARDINES! HA!"
This was inspired by Martha Rose Shulman's recipe for Spinach, Sardine, and Rice Gratin in the New York Times. My version is less health food and more decadent, because if you're already using cheap, healthy, and divisive sardines, you deserve to let go a little in the rest of the recipe. I use parmesan in addition to breadcrumbs, crème fraîche in place of low-fat milk, and bone-in, skin-on sardines. The addition of sweet butternut squash and substituting heartier kale for the spinach really take it to another level. —linzarella
Food52 Review: Kale, barley, butternut squash, sardines...what a combination of nutrient-dense power foods, flavors, and textures! The barley and lacinato kale add chewiness. The roasted butternut squash adds a burst of sweetness to the sardines' boldness and the barley's earthiness. The breadcrumbs and parmesan lend a welcome crunchiness to this casserole. —diaday
- 2 cans bone-in, skin-on, oil-packed sardines (make sure you get a good brand. I think Matiz is best.)
- 2 large bunches kale, chopped
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche
- 1 cup cooked pearled barley
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup white wine
- Coat the butternut squash with olive oil, toss with salt and pepper, and roast for 20 to 25 minutes at 425. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Meanwhile, oil a large baking dish. Blanch the kale for about one minute in salted boiling water. Drain well, and once it's cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess water.
- Cook the onion with a pinch of salt in olive oil until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic and thyme and cook another minute. Then add the blanched kale, more salt and pepper, and the flour. Stir everything together until the flour is distributed throughout. Add the creme fraiche, white wine, cooked barley, and cooked butternut squash, and cook until any liquid in the pan has evaporated.
- Remove the sardines from the oil (don't throw out the oil!) and add them to the pan, breaking them up as you stir.
- Transfer the sardine and kale mixture into the oiled baking dish. drizzle the oil left over from the canned sardines on top of the mixture, and top with the parmesan and breadcrumbs.
- Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.
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