Anchovies get a bad rap in the U.S. They typically appear on “most hated foods” lists. That’s because many people were first introduced to cheap, oily, odoriferus, overly salty and “fishy” tasting examples on pizzas or in Caesar salads at the local diner.
One reason those anchovies are so intense is that casual restaurants don’t take the time to rinse the anchovies, but just scoop them up from the oil.
Another reason is using cheaper anchovies!
But in fact, these little fish can be truly delightful—still with a strong flavor, but one that’s delicious.
The 144 species of anchovies, a salt-water fish related to herring. They live in many of the world’s oceans and seas, including the Atlantic, Indian, Mediterranean and Pacific.
The good brands are things of beauty. Italians—who not only make some of the world’s best food, but as a society have among the most demanding palates—use them as a backbone in many recipes.
The best Italian anchovies come from Cetara (photo #1), an enchanting fishing village along the Amalfi coast, on the Gulf of Salerno. They are packaged by Nettuno, a family-run company. Production is completely by hand, using simple but precise traditions of local anchovy preserving.
The best anchovies are caught between March and July, when their flesh is at its most plump; the better brands only fish during this period.
The fresh anchovies are immediately placed in oak barrels layered with water and sea salt and cured for about five months. The salt used by Nettuno is the exceptional sea salt that is hand-harvested in the salt panes of Trapani from, uncontaminated Sicilian waters.
The result: anchovies that are are soft, moist and plump. It takes only a few seconds to rinse them in cold water and then put them too use.
Look for Cento, Nettuno and Agostino Recca sardines.
Here’s more about garum, a great umami flavor.
This recipe is courtesy La Cucina Italiana and Chef Andrea Tiberi. It serves 4.
1. Heat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Drop plum tomatoes into water and boil 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes from pot (reserve water); drain, peel, cut in half, and seed.
3. Place tomatoes on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake until tomatoes are partially dried and flavor is concentrated, about 3 hours.
4. Return water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, and toss with a drizzle of oil and pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.
5. Remove tomatoes from oven; transfer to a cutting board and finely chop. Add to bowl with pasta. Add greens, Piennolo tomatoes, 3 tablespoons oil, anchovies, capers, chervil and marjoram; toss to combine. Arrange on plates. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and some fresh-ground pepper.
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