Stuffed Sardines Beccafico


(“Sarde a Beccafico” - "Sardi a Beccaficu")

Beccafico (Sylvia borin), a Sylvidae bird is larger, meatier and more exquisite than a sparrow, nests in Tuscany and passes over Sicily in spring and in the fall for the winter migration.
These birds were stuffed and cooked in the kitchens of the nobles and wealthy by the Monsu’, the famous Sicilian cooks serving the aristocratic families of the local upper class.
The Monsu’ having at their disposal an unlimited budget, a variety of ingredients, and a kitchen outfitted with the latest equipment, could attain a degree of gastronomic excellence, to satisfy the most sophisticated taste. They could produce dishes that synthesized the legacy of the cuisines of the Greeks, the Romans, the Jewish, the Arabs, the Normans, and of the Spanish.
Also, by using the abundant local produce, dairies, meats and local fish, the Monsu’ could make dishes of unsurpassed taste and to the best culinary traditions.
The working class is responsible for handing down the popular and simple Sicilian traditional cooking. Their cooking was made up with the seasonal and local harvested foods.  The freshness of the ingredients used and the right ripeness of the produce resulted in fragrant and first class dishes. By not overcooking the food, they left intact the original taste and smell.
When the kitchen helpers of the Monsu’ were relating the tales of the legendary official dinners and of the many courses offered, the fantasy of the people created dishes with the taste and appearance similar to the baronial fare, substituting the expensive component for common and lower priced ingredients.
In the popular cooking the Beccafico  were substituted by fresh sardines, and a similar stuffing of the beccafico  was used. The sardines were displayed with the tail up which gave a look like the birds that the aristocrats were nibbling. 
The Sarde a Beccafico was no proxy to the original dish; it was the creation of a new and tastier delicacy, appreciated not only in the unsophisticated table of the people, but also in the baronial banquets.

We have two recipes: sardines beccafico Palermo style with lemon sauce 

and Sarde a beccafico Catania style stuffed with capers-cheese filling.