1 medium fennel bulb—fronds coarsely chopped, bulb cored and very thinly
1/2 cup Champagne vinegar
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup pine nuts
Season the sardines with salt and pepper and dust with the cornmeal. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Cook the sardines over moderately high heat until just white throughout, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish and spread the sliced fennel on top.
In a small saucepan, simmer the Champagne vinegar, raisins, sugar, cinnamon and bay leaf over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Pour the mixture over the sardines and let stand for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight.
In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Drizzle the marinated sardines with the remaining 2 table- spoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and fennel fronds and serve.
"You need a wine that can counterbalance these intense sardines," says Dan Amatuzzi of Mario Batali's quickly fried fish marinated in sweet Champagne vinegar, the classic Venetian dish sardines in saor. He selects a Verdicchio from Le Marche with sweet pear notes.