Cured Sardines with Tomato Marmalade and Epazote

Drew Deckman

Common Table, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Deckman's San Jose, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico; and Deckman's en el Mogor, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

While chef Drew Deckman served this recipe as a canapé at the Beard House, we've modified the recipe for a family-style meal. You can find epazote at Mexican or Latin markets. If you can’t find it, substitute a combination of fresh cilantro and oregano. 



  • Fillets from 10 fresh sardines, (do not remove the skin; you can have a fishmonger fillet the fish for you)
  • 3 cups plus 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Tomato Marmalade:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced white onions
  • 2 large (about 8 ounces) heirloom tomatoes, skin and seeds removed, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 serrano chile, seeds removed and finely chopped 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • White pepper to taste

To serve:

  • Eight 1/4-inch-thick baguette slices
  • Olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped epazote


Cure the sardine fillets: cover the bottom of a container that’s large enough to hold the fillets in a single layer with salt. Place the fillets in the salt, skin side up. (The sardines may touch, but should not overlap.) Cover completely with more salt. Refrigerate for 18 hours. 

Remove the sardines from the salt and rinse under cold water. Pat dry. 

Pour a few tablespoons of the olive oil into a container that can comfortably fit a few sardine fillets in a single layer. Add one layer of fillets. Continue adding alternating layers of oil and sardines until all of the fillets are in the container and all of the olive oil has been used. Refrigerate for 24 hours. 

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, red wine vinegar, turbinado sugar, bay leaf, garlic, serrano chile, and 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down and the mixture is the consistency of marmalade, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Let the marmalade cool completely. Transfer to a sealable container and refrigerate until needed. Let the marmalade return to room temperature before serving. 

Remove the sardine fillets from the olive oil and let come to room temperature. 

Toast the baguette slices: preheat the oven to 375º F. Brush the slices with olive oil. Toast until slightly brown and crunchy, about 10 minutes. 

To serve, arrange the sardine fillets on a serving plate. Spoon some tomato marmalade on top of the fish. Garnish with epazote. Serve with the toasted bread on the side. 


4 servings