Dinner this weekend we at Stag Dining hosted another skeet shooting/sportsman’s feast. California sun, wine and good people. I’ll have you know that after shooting a few rounds, dining on roasted grapes, truffled chicken wings and Indian Summer gazpacho is a damn fine way to spend afternoon.

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Select photos by: Edwin Zee


5 lbs of fresh sardines

kosher salt

cold water



4 cups champagne vinegar

8 cups water

1 cup sugar

1 cup sliced shallots

10 cloves garlic smashed

5 bay leaves

4 sprigs thyme

2 lemons zest only

1 tsp black peppercorns

The tastiest food starts with the freshest ingredients, so make sure you have fresh sardines. The best way to tell if your sardines are fresh is to make sure they are firm. Chef Ted Fleury says that if they aren’t fresh the only thing they are good for is crab bait. So if that’s the case go fishing and we’ll try to find you a crab recipe for next time.

First step is to clean and scale the sardines. To do this you can follow this handy tutorial: or follow our process below: 

Scale the sardines by rubbing them gently with the side of a fork or a Japanese fish scaler to remove the scale. Once the fish are scaled, use a sharp knife to remove the head and remove the insides of the body. (Keep the head and guts or crab bait) Filet the sardines by running a sharp knife along both sides of the spine starting from the head end to the tail end. Pull the pin bones from the fillets, this is a tedious process but worth it in the end.

Once Sardines are scaled and cleaned:

1. Mix enough salt into the cold water to make the water as salty as the ocean. Pour the salt water over the sardines and refrigerate for an hour. This will start to cure the fish and make it firmer to hold up to the vinegar solution. 

2. For the brine: add all ingredients in a non-reactive pot and bring to a simmer, once the brine has simmered for a few minutes, remove from the heat and chill in the refrigerator until cold.

3. Once brine is cold, transfer the sardines from the saltwater mixture into the brine.

4. Leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours. 

Enjoy with crackers, bread or the way Stag Dining served it at our Wilderness Dinner II in a chicory salad, with a goat cheese terrine, castelvetrano olive, radishes, and apple.