It seems lately that everyone is talking about Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode, “Live and Let Diet” where he espouses one of his favorite light meals, packed with heart-healthy goodies, nutrients and fats: marinated brislings over avocado mash on toasted bread.
Those of you who already eat tinned fishies like sardines, kippers, herring, anchovy and, our favorite, sprats, are probably already wondering whether or not there’s a ripe avocado in the cupboard. Just skip down to the end for my adaptation.
I want to talk to those of you who, like my mother, scrunch up your nose and look at a tin of fish as if it were the most horrible food product on earth.
I have only two questions for you: Do you like tuna fish sandwiches or tuna salad? Ever enjoyed fried salmon cakes?
Guess what: You just ate a tin of fish. It’s fishy, flaky and oh-so-good, isn’t it?
Now, take the tin of humble sprats. You know what’s inside? A different, smaller fish that’s been smoked and packed in oil. Since he’s a tiny little guy, he still has his bones (so does that salmon you buy in a can!) and probably his skin and some fins. They’re all completely edible. The canning process cooks everything enough so that it’s nice and soft – you’ll never even know unless you look.
And if you’re still a bit squicked out? Just smoosh ‘em all up into a mash! Now it looks just like a bit darker version of tuna salad. No problem there, right?
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Smoked tinned fish is much, much better than tinned tuna. There’s no comparison, at least not for me. I’d rather have sprats than tuna; the smoky, rich flavor just can’t be beat. And this open-faced sandwich is a marvelous way to try them out.
Personally, I absolutely love this sandwich. I can’t believe I never thought to match sprats to avocado! I originally tried the recipe the way Alton does it: with sardines. I found them too mild, too bland and absolutely requiring the apple cider vinegar and marinating Alton calls for. Sprats don’t need vinegar or marinating at all because they’re so intensely flavorful on their own.
And of course, being me, I strongly recommend you look for ones from Latvia. (This is easy, more than 75% of the sprats out there come from Latvia.) If at all possible, if you have the option, get “Rīgas zelts” — my personal favorite and one of the best brands. Don’t get the tins of fish in sauce. While they’re still good eats, I think the sauce would probably clash, especially if it’s sweet.
Sprats and Avocado Sandwich [printable recipe]
Adapted from Alton Brown [original recipe here]
- 160 g smoked sprats in oil (one 5.6 oz can)
- 1 ripe avocado
- splash of lemon juice or a lemon, split into wedges
- freshly-ground black pepper
- pinch of salt
- 4 (about 1/2″ thick) slices of crusty, tasty bread – french, sourdough, country, etc.
- 1 – 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Pour off about 2/3rds of the oil in the tin into a small dish then empty the fish and remaining oil onto another, larger dish carefully1. Brush the reserved oil over the bread and toast.
If you don’t have a toaster oven, you probably shouldn’t put this into a regular 2- or 4-slice toaster. Instead, place a rack in the oven about 4″ from the element and turn it to Broil. Place the slices on a rack set on a baking sheet and broil for 2 – 3 minutes until golden brown2.
Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Mash the avocado – either in a small bowl or just inside the skin – and spread over the freshly toasted slices.
If you’re smooshing the sprats, mash those in the bowl with a few grinds of pepper, a pinch of salt and a generous splash of lemon juice. Scoop the mash onto each slice and spread evenly (and generously!) over the avocado.
Otherwise, lay the sprats neatly over the avocado, sprinkle a bit of salt and grind a bit of pepper over each sandwich. Squeeze the lemon over each then garnish with parsley.
- Unless you intend to smoosh them, in which case just dump ‘em in and don’t worry about it.
- THIS WILL BURN. Be careful! Check it every 30 – 45 seconds after the first minute is up and remove as soon as it’s as golden as you want it.