There are very few ingredients in cooking that are as disliked and misunderstood as Anchovies. Anchovies are a small, shiny, silver fish that run in large schools. Because they are small, generally 5 to 8 inches in length, anchovies are often confused with sardines. In some areas, the terms anchovy and sardine are used interchangeably. The miniscule scales are virtually non-existent and the skin is perfectly edible. Anchovies are native to the Mediterranean and are very popular in many Mediterranean dishes. Many people have an instant aversion to anchovies and won't eat anything with anchovies on it or in it. What most people don't know is that anchovies are a common ingredient in many dishes and many people eat anchovies without even knowing it. Ever wonder what that salty slightly fishy flavor is in Cesar salad.
I was one of those who, earlier in life would instantly say I disliked anchovies even though I had probably never eaten an anchovy. As I grew up and my food tastes matured I started trying a lot of things that I didn't eat when I was young. To this day I still don't understand how I could have ever disliked onions but for many years I didn't like them. I have a new fondness for beets and have rekindled a love affair with braunschweiger. All because I was will to give them another try. So why not give anchovies another shot. I know I have used them in many dishes to add flavor but have never really used them in any other fashion. I have a really nice green bean recipe that calls for anchovies and the anchovies almost dissolve in the hot oil and add a wonderful saltyness to the dish.
In a recent issue of Bon Appetite there was a recipe for anchovy butter and radish crostini so I thought I would give it a try. I was amazed that only three little anchovy fillets from a can of anchovies could add so much flavor to butter. Paired with the radishes and a little chive and I was on my way to being able to love anchovies.
The second idea came from Jose Andreas and is a very much a Mediterranean style dish. It involves anchovy fillets and Piquillo peppers stuffed inside spanish olives and marinated in olive oil with garlic, sherry vinegar and orange zest. These little one bite wonders were so packed with flavor it made me want to dance. They were absolutely wonderful and the brightness of the orange zest combined with the fresh garlic was a new flavor that I can't wait to play around with.
So I guess it is safe to say that I am now hooked on anchovies and can't wait to try as many different anchovy recipes as I can. I would love to get my hands on some fresh anchovies and see what kinds of things I could do with them but here in Minnesota that might not be so easy. So the moral of today's story is to always try things again and again because you never know what is going to change.