Tartines | Sardine, Herring, and Radish + Herby Butter

By the time you are done reading this you will become a believer.

A sardine believer.

I spent most of my life eating these petite, glossy fish. I ate them as a snack or as a meal. Sandwiched between two fluffy slices of Wonder bread, they were forgiving and satisfying. A pleasure in the mouth.

As an adult, I still turn to sardines whenever I get a hankering for something rich and delicate.

There’s something so primal about looping your finger and peeling back the tin lid to reveal the glistening beauty inside. The ones packed in olive oil are the best. I use the wild caught, brisling sardine Crown Prince variety.

But of course, if you can find fresh sardines at your local fish monger, do snatch those up.

For me, I find it most alluring to eat sardines straight out of the tin accompanied by a glass of wine. The golden fat from the fish and the oil combined coats the entire mouth as you chew, leaving behind a delightfully well-rounded balance of flavors. Sip. Chew. Sip, sip. Chew. It’s gastronomic perfection.

A couple weeks ago, I was introduced to Kerrygold Irish Butter. I quickly fell enamored with its’ creamy texture, lively yellow hue, and full-bodied buttery flavored goodness. It reminded me of the butter I find in Peru — soft and rich. A perfect companion to a humble piece of bread.

This was actually where my inspiration for making tartines began.

I wanted to celebrate the simplicity in food.

Crisp, peppery radishes. Pickled herring, zingy and meaty. Sardines. And butter — whirled in a whimsical blend of herbs, garlic, and citrus.

Commonly known as a compound butter, this simple spread can be used on anything. It’s addictive, too, so make a big batch. Stash some in the fridge for the week and roll the rest up in a log, covered in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. Cut and slice when desired.

Don’t feel intimidated by the word ‘tartine.’ It’s basically a fancy French way of referring to a small open-faced sandwich. You have the license to dress it up or down. Be inventive.

Here, I kept it simple.

I used earthy pumpernickel bread as a vehicle for the fantastic star-studded ingredients. Each one was unique and delicious in their own right. It made for a perfect solo lunch on a gorgeously sunny day.

I hope I’ve convinced you to become a true sardine believer.

Go on. You need a little more Omega-3 in your life, anyway.

Tartine of Sardine, Herring, and Radish with Herby Butter

[Note: Since this can be altered, adjusted, and adapted to suit personal needs, I haven’t included a precise recipe. Use this as a guide to get you started. As a rule of thumb, get the best ingredients you can find. And if it’s from a local purveyor, even better.]

For the herby butter:

1 stick, unsalted butter, room temperature

Mixed fresh herbs (tarragon, chives, thyme, parsley)

Garlic paste — minced garlic ground together with kosher salt

Lemon zest and some juice

Shallot, minced finely

Extra salt to taste

Mix everything to combine. Have a little taste. If you like it, it’s good.

For the tartines:

Sardines packed in olive oil

Pickled herring — I used a delicious specialty herring in white wine from Monahan’s Seafood in Ann Arbor, but they come in a variety of preparations. Ask the fish guy for a taste.

Sliced radishes

Herby butter

Extra virgin olive oil, fresh dill, chives, salt and pepper, lemon zest as finishing touches

Assemble tartines to your disposition. They will turn out delicious no matter what.





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  • Min {Honest Vanilla}March 24, 2011 - 12:26 pm

    I don’t remember the last time I had sardines! I just remember mushy gooey glob soaked in tomato sauce. But this, is clearly a class above that 🙂 Glistening and tempting me!ReplyCancel

    • StephanieMarch 24, 2011 - 1:03 pm


      You should really give them another go. So, so good! :-pReplyCancel

  • LeslieMarch 24, 2011 - 8:53 pm

    I used to like sardines as a kid too.. Now you just made me want to try them again.. it’s been a long time!ReplyCancel

    • StephanieMarch 24, 2011 - 9:50 pm

      Hey Leslie! Was just thinking about you! 🙂 Must buy a pack soon — they’re yummy!ReplyCancel

  • CeliaMarch 24, 2011 - 9:23 pm

    Stumbled across these on FG: I’m so thrilled to find someone who’s as into salted, preserved, and pickled fish as I am! 🙂 Love how you cut it with the radish, too…ReplyCancel

    • StephanieMarch 24, 2011 - 9:51 pm

      Hi Celia,

      I’m trying to convert people, one at a time, to appreciate sardines…and all small oily fish in general. :-p They’re so good for you and just absolutely delicious. They are so underrated.ReplyCancel

  • soniaMarch 25, 2011 - 11:15 am

    Lovely dish Stephanie… just loved it !ReplyCancel

  • Angie's RecipesMarch 25, 2011 - 3:09 pm

    I do love sardine! The way you serve them is so pretty. So is your photography.ReplyCancel

    • StephanieMarch 25, 2011 - 8:48 pm

      Hey Angie! Thanks! I’m a big fan of your photography, too. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Christina @ Sweet Pea's KitchenMarch 25, 2011 - 10:05 pm

    You sure make a canned sardines sound and look delicious! I will never look at a can the same again! 🙂 I am not a huge fan of sardines, but I think I need to give them another shot! Looks great!! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Fresh and FoodieMarch 25, 2011 - 10:27 pm

    Yum! So elegant, Steph!

    I love fresh sardines…and herring. My husband thinks I’m insane but I grew up eating that stuff b/c my dad liked it.

    I’ve been curious about that Kerrygold butter — I’ll have to give it a try.ReplyCancel

  • SusiMarch 26, 2011 - 12:04 pm

    Steph, what a beautiful presentation! That Kerrygold butter is incredible and I bet it was out of this world delicious turned into a compound butter. I don’t think I’ve ever had sardines, but I’d be willing to try them if they came on as beautiful of tartines as yours!ReplyCancel

  • NatalieMarch 27, 2011 - 9:13 am

    I love the sound of the herby butter and crispy fresh radishes on brown bread, so easy, light and elegant! You ca keep the sardines though!! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • StephanieMarch 30, 2011 - 6:10 pm


      I was able to persuade my sister to give sardines a try. After years! You gotta give ’em a shot! :-pReplyCancel

  • KimberleyMarch 27, 2011 - 9:18 pm

    These sound absolutely delicious! I love sardines.ReplyCancel

  • TiffanyMarch 29, 2011 - 6:24 pm

    Oh, I’m a believer! I grew up eating sardines (although not in this fancy way!). Just beautiful!!!ReplyCancel

  • MarieApril 10, 2011 - 9:00 pm

    I love canned sardines. Never thought about combining them with butter and bread; how unimaginative of me! Beautiful pictures.ReplyCancel

  • JessicaApril 11, 2011 - 11:49 am

    Steph, keep on celebrating the simplicity of food. I love these tartines – simple, elegant, and flavorful. I love Irish butter – have you tried their Irish cheese? It is to die for! What a well done dish!ReplyCancel

  • Steph@stephsbitebybiteApril 13, 2011 - 2:14 pm

    Eek! I don’t know if I could do the sardines, I’m still too scared. But everything looks amazing and yummy…maybe I just have to close my eyes and pinch my nose 😉ReplyCancel

  • Island VittlesApril 14, 2011 - 1:32 pm

    glorious! I too grew up with sardines — my Dad’s favourite was sardines on toast with raw sliced onion, ground pepper and butter. Yours look much prettier — the colours are fab! TheresaReplyCancel

  • RitaApril 18, 2011 - 12:48 pm

    Are you planning a trip to Italy? Because if you do, I want you to cook for me. I’d let you use my precious little kitchen and all the tools here. Really. I’m not joking. This pics make me drool: I REALLY want to try these tartines!!! And if you were here, you could make them for me… 😛
    Why do we live apart?! 🙁ReplyCancel

    • StephanieApril 18, 2011 - 6:24 pm


      You are too funny! Have you ever tried sardines before? I would LOVE to visit Italy someday. That is definitely a dream of ours. Where do you guys live near again?ReplyCancel

  • RitaApril 20, 2011 - 3:21 am

    Prato, near Florence, that is the most beautiful place in Italy… 😛
    Ok, I’m joking. There are LOTS of beautiful places in Italy. 😉
    I’d love you to come: I’m pretty sure you’ll visit Italy before we visit the States…ReplyCancel

  • SaraMay 20, 2011 - 8:07 pm

    I absolutely love canned sardines. It began as a weird pregnancy thing (not a craving, rather just a good way to get those omega-3s without mercury worries) but has held strong several years on! I often use them to round out leftovers from other meals for a low key meal, but you are right, they deserve their own special preparation. I get mine (in bulk) from Vital Choice. I used to be able to find sardines packed in mustard but noone sells those anymore. (Is that too much? Mustard and sardines? But it’s so good).ReplyCancel

    • StephanieMay 21, 2011 - 7:37 am

      Hey there Sara,

      Ooo…now buying in bulk, that sounds like a good idea! I’ll have to check out Vital Choice. And I can’t say I’ve ever tried eating sardines with mustard. But I love how different and exciting it sounds. Love to change things up every now and again! 🙂ReplyCancel

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