Food & Wine (August 2012)
The latest issue of Food & Wine has a little feature in the front, presented not as a recipe, but as a little tidbit, about how to make a traditional fish sauce. It goes something like this: Pack anchovies in a barrel, let them sit in the sun for a year, and voila! Fish sauce! (Don't worry, neighbors, we're not about to start fish sauce production in the backyard.)
We suspect that we've already lost a good portion of readers with this headline, due to the presence of the dreaded anchovy in the recipe title.
Are you team anchovy, or do you flee in horror at the mere sound of their name?
If you're the latter, we think you should buck up and give this recipe a go. Here's why.
Anchovies show up in our kitchen a few times a year. Typically, we buy them when we want to make Deconstructed Pan Grilled Caesar from Dave Lieberman's book, Young & Hungry. A friend introduced to that book years ago (pre-Bitten Word), and for years that salad was our go-to dinner party trick. It doesn't use anchovies, but it does use the the strongly flavored oil from a tin of anchovies. Not a single guest ever complained (or if they did, they waited until they were out of the apartment).
In the nearly five years we've been writing The Bitten Word, we've only featured a handful of recipes that use anchovies. And it had been a long time since we tasted a pure anchovy, straight out of the tin. So in the spirit of "what does this really taste like," we cracked open a tin, fished an anchovy out with a tiny fork, and popped it in our mouths.
The first thing that comes to mind: Pungent (and we don't mean that in a negative sense). Anchovies, packed in oil, have an incredibly strong flavor. They're more salty than fishy and they light up the taste buds. On their own, they can be overpowering.
If you're anchovy-phobic, you shouldn't try to get on the anchovy bandwagon by starting with recipes that prominently feature the tiny fish (we're thinking any dish where anchovy is one of the main ingredients, or where there are multiple anchovies per serving). Start instead with a recipe like the one for Grilled Caesar Salad featured above, or this recipe for an Heirloom Tomato Salad, which uses anchovy in the flavoring of a vinaigrette.
The key is to find a recipe that hides the anchovy by mincing it, then mixing it with other ingredients, in this case, a vinaigrette. In this example, anchovy is a small portion of a flavorful, warm vinaigrette made of olive oil, garlic and lemon zest, with vinegar and shallots added in at the end. And the anchovies do their job: This is a wonderfully savory vinaigrette, delicious on sweet summer tomatoes.
A notable touch here is the dish is paired with a soft-boiled egg, a beautiful accompaniment that provides an additional, rich note to the salad.
If you're not a fan of runny egg yolk, well, that's a topic for another time.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Notes from Zach and Clay/TheBittenWord.com:
- We used a mix of tomatoes from the farmers market and our garden. They weren't necessarily "heirloom" but they were very flavorful. When choosing tomatoes, we suggeset selecting a variety of colors, which you see our salad lacks.
- We didn't have any marjoram on hand, so we went ahead without it. Other than that, we followed the recipe to a tee.
- For the anchovies, we purchased a small tin of anchovies packed in olive oil. We assume that's what the recipe writer intends for use here.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 anchovies, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes—large ones sliced, small ones halved
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground pepper
Flat-leaf parsley, for serving
Marjoram leaves, for serving
In a small skillet, combine the olive oil, anchovies, garlic and lemon zest.
In a small bowl, toss the shallot with the vinegar and let stand for 10 minutes.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Turn the heat to low and, when the water is simmering, gently place the eggs in the water. Cook for 6 minutes, until lightly boiled. Have an ice bath ready near the stove. With a slotted spoon, plunge the eggs in the ice bath and let cool for 2 minutes. Peel the eggs.
Arrange the tomatoes on 4 plates and season with fleur de sel and pepper. Scatter the shallot and vinegar over the tomatoes.
Warm the anchovy dressing over moderate heat to a gentle simmer; pour over the tomatoes. Cut the eggs in half crosswise and place a half on each plate. Scatter the parsley and marjoram over the salad and serve.