From: Chef Jen Biesty, Scala’s Bistro, San Francisco. Yield: 8 servings.
4 fresh sardines, fileted
2 large fresh avocados (8 oz. each)
1 baguette or pan de mie loaf, cut into 8 slices, each 1/8” thick
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
8 sprigs tarragon, dill or parsley
as needed, salt and pepper to taste
1 medium red onion (9 oz.), thinly sliced
as needed, escabeche pickling liquid (recipe follows)
as needed, chili oil (recipe follows)
Escabeche Pickling Liquid (yields 3½ cups):
1 medium yellow onion (9 oz.), thinly sliced
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup sweet white wine
2 tsp. granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 jalapeno pepper, halved lengthwise, seeded, very thinly sliced
Chili Oil (yields ½ cup):
½ cup vegetable oil
1½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. smoked paprika
For escabeche pickling liquid: Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add onions and blanch for 15 seconds. Drain well and set aside. Combine lime juice, orange juice, white wine, sugar and salt in a large nonreactive bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add blanched onion slices and jalapeno; stir to combine. Submerge the sardine filets in the pickling liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the red onion slices and blanch for 15 seconds. Drain well and set aside. Once the sardines are taken out of the pickling liquid, add the red onion slices to pickling liquid and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Chili oil: Heat all ingredients in a small saucepan until it reaches 120°F, whisking every few minutes to insure spices don’t stick to bottom of pan and burn. Once temperature reaches 120°F, remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes. Strain the oil through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. Discard spices.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F. Brush bread slices with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
To assemble: Cut each avocado in half and remove the seed. Peel the skin from each half and cut in half again. Cut each quarter into 3 slices (12 altogether). Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with lemon juice and remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Set prepared toasts on a platter. Place 3 avocado slices onto each toast. Top each with a half of a pickled sardine. Pile pickled red onion onto center of the filet and top each with an herb sprig. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; finish with a drizzle of chili oil and serve.