My Blog List

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Awful Anchovy

When I announced I was starting a food blog I included anchovies in the topics I might write about, and someone wrote and said, "Please don't ruin Caesar salad for me!" I hope I won't ruin anything for anybody but will give you a better understanding of the woefully unappreciated anchovy. I have eaten plates of white anchovies as tapas. I also eat an anchovy fillet out of the can on a cracker, but I can understand not many people want to do that. Anchovies are strong and salty fish, even those small fillets that come in a can, covered with oil, either rolled around a caper or flat (anchovies are often combined with capers in recipes). But mostly anchovies are used sparingly to heighten flavor and you may not have any idea they're there--like Caesar salad. Do you like Green Goddes dressing? Usually has anchovies in it. My youngest daughter wouldn't touch an anchovy, but she loves a pork, chicken, and prosciutto roulade I do--in between the layers is a sauce of green peppercorns, garlic, olive oil, parsley, fresh basil, and a half can (that's a lot!) of anchovy fillets, drained.
Some notes about anchovies: if you soak them in cool water for 30 minutes, drain and pat dry, some of the saltiness goes away. If you make a salad dressing or something similar with them, be aware that it's like serrano chilis in adobe sauce--they just get stronger. Most recipes call for two to four anchovy fillets--and there you are with a whole can; if they're packed in oil, seal them air-tight and refrigerate for up to two months.
My appalling collection of recipes has ideas for including anchovies in a cream cheese/sour cream dip along with capers, choped onion, garlic, and chives. Just use four anchovy fillets if you use an 8 oz. pkg of cream cheese and a cup of sour cream. Or put them between layers when you make scalloped potatoes. Or toss them, rinsed and minced, with cooked broccoli flowerets, minced garlic, olive oil and an optional bit of dried red pepper flakes. Serve that hot or cold.
My former neighbor and still good friend, Sue Boggs, gave me her favorite salad dressing recipe (her own invention, I think):
Juice of 1 lemon
Two Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (I use chardonnay vinegar a lot--maybe because I drink chardonnay)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Dash of Worcestershire
2 anchovies, ground into paste
1/8 c. fresh ground Parmesan cheese
Three turns of fresh groudn peppercorns
Delicious when first served, but I let it sit a few days after that, then served it to Jordan, Christian, and my neighbor Jay. Jay didn't touch his salad, and the others complained it was fishy. "What did you do to it?" Oh, well.
Jay gave me an appetizer recipe that is superb:
Smoked Salmon Tartare
 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 tsp. roasted garlic paste (sprinkle olive oil over about four garlic cloves, seal in foil, and roast 45 minutes @ 350; cool, peel, and mash)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. sour cream
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 lb. smoked salmon. diced
1 small jalopeno, seeded and minced (I probably omitted it when I made this)
1/4 c. finely chopped red onion
1 Tbsp. capers, drained and coarsely chopped if they are large
1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro plus leaves for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Serve with corn chips
Mash anchovies with garlic paste, cumin, and olive oil. Stir in sour cream and lime joice. Fold in smoked salmon, jalopeno, red onion, capers and chopped cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Keeps 1 day refrigerated. Ideally you lay chips on a platter, top each with a dollop of the tartare and then cilantro leaves to garnish. I just put out a bowl of salmon tartare and a bowl of chips. So much easier.
I have several recipes for pasta with anchovies. Here's one of my favorites. If you want more, write me at or leave a comment on this blog:
Spaghetti with fried capers and anchovies
Ever fried capers? They pop, brown, and shrivel, and then they're crispy and delicious. In this dish, I actually tasted the capers more than the anchovies, once again proving that anchovies add accent rather than being the main, dominant flavor.
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 c. capers, drained and rinsed, dried as much as possible
Fry the capers in pre-heated olive oil at high heat, about four minutes.
6 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, mined
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/3 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon j uice
Crushed red pepper if desired
1 lb. spaghetti or fettucine
Parmesan cheese to taste
Cook spaghetti. While it's cooking, put anchovies, garlic and lemon zest in food processor--it will make a thick paste. In bowl stir together paste, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, fried capers and red pepper. I like to add the Parmesan but use a light hand so it doesn't overwhem the sauce.
Drain spaghetti, add caper/anchovy mixture and toss.
Hope you still like your Caesar salad and will try some of these ideas.


  1. Judy, I do enjoy anchovies, and my husband, Marc, eats them naked, just like you, right out of the container. I've never tried frying capers! I'll give it a shot very soon using your directions. Thank you for sharing. Cheers!

    ~ Cleo

  2. Judy, I'm late reading this, but I must chime in with another defense of the anchovy. If you buy the salted ones at an Italian market and keep them in the salt in the fridge, the salt is a wonderful flavoring to all kinds of dishes. These anchovies have to be soaked, too, to remove the saltiness. Most people who shy away from anchovies don't realize what a good seasoning they are for a variety of things. They are the primary ingredient in Worchestershire Sauce.