This vigorous hors d’oeuvre can also be made with fresh anchovies, herring, or smelts. It is better after two days in the refrigerator and will keep up to a week there.
Wash the fish and discard the heads. Fillet the fish (sardines may be left whole if they are small enough) and drain on paper towels. Put the fresh fennel between every two fillets or sprinkle the fillets with fennel or anise seeds. Season with salt and pepper and place the fish in a shallow baking dish.
Put the vinegar, water, peppercorns, coriander, nutmeg, bay leaves, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, then pour while hot over the fillets and let them cool. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve, carefully lift out the fish with two spatulas onto a platter. Garnish with watercress or parsley.
© 1990 Mireille Johnston estate. All rights reserved.