The task: Cleaning, deboning and filleting fresh sardines
The pro: Seamus Mullen, executive chef at Boqueria(53 W 19th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, 212-255-4160)
Video by Karina Granda and Elizabeth Kreutz
Hold a fresh sardine under cold, running water. Using a pair of open kitchen shears, repeatedly run the blade from the tail to the head, scraping off the scales. The water will wash them away as they come free. When you’re done, the skin should be smooth and slick.
Snip off the head just below the gills. Discard.
Cut open the belly, starting where the head used to be and working toward the tail. Scoop out the guts and pull off the dorsal (spine-side) fin with your fingers. Discard.
Gently spread open the fillets. You’ll see the spine sticking out where the head was—grasp it and carefully start to work the bone away from the flesh. Stop when you reach the tail.
Cut the spine off where it meets the tail, keeping the fin intact. Depending on the recipe, the fillets can either be left attached, or divided in two by cutting along the spine and removing the tail fin. Use the scissors to trim any bones or ragged bits of skin along the fillets for a cleaner look.
Choose sardines that have firm flesh and clear eyes; avoid any that are mushy in the belly area.