There are two keys to success for this dish. The first is the bread. A thick-cut slice of toast is a must to support the weight of the toppings, and a whole-grain or seeded bread is highly recommended for nutty flavor. The second key is achieving a good char on the sardines, which helps cut through the creaminess of the sour cream and the fattiness of the ham.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and 1/4 cup sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the red pepper flakes and raisins. Place in an airtight container, and marinate at least 30 minutes.
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven, and preheat the broiler. On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss the shallots with the olive oil and a pinch of salt to coat. Broil 2 to 3 minutes. (Watch closely as shallots will char quickly.) Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a dry cast-iron skillet, toast the mustard seeds or caraway seeds over medium-low heat until fragrant. Let cool. In another small bowl, whisk the sherry vinegar and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the toasted seeds and cooled charred shallots. Marinate at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the upper broiler. Place the sardine fillets on a foil-lined baking sheet. If the sardines were packed in water, drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Broil 5 to 6 inches from the heat, about 5 minutes. Turn and broil until sardines are crisp but not burned, about 3 minutes more. Let cool completely.
Using a fork, flake the sardines into a medium bowl. Add the sour cream and 1/4 cup of the drained pickled shallots. Gently fold the mixture, taking care not to further break apart the sardines too much. Cut each slice of toast in half, and top each half with a generous amount of the sardine and sour cream mixture. Top with the serrano slices, drained pickled raisins, and remaining drained shallots. Garnish with parsley, chives, and red pepper flakes. Squeeze over fresh lemon juice.
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