The eyebrows that fell onto the pizza – The Denver Post
I call them “the eyebrows that fell onto the pizza.”
They are not very enticing, those tinned anchovies, a dull sandstone red-brown and their wee bones ready to tickle your throat if you don’t chew them well enough. If you chew them at all … .
People avoid anchovies not merely because they look weird, but because they claim anchovies are too strong in the flavor department. I mean, they are the definition of “fishy,” right?
But we eat anchovies all the time without knowing it, mainly because we don’t see them coming. They’re the sixth ingredient listed (out of around 12) in Worcestershire sauce. They’re in every proper Caesar salad dressing, never mind if they’re not also laid whole on top of the romaine; they’re in every proper black olive tapenade.
You can bet many chefs use them at the restaurants where they feed you: in pasta puttanesca, on the hanger steak for steak frites, in the fish sauce at every Thai or Vietnamese joint you’d ever patronize.
Never noticed, did you? And those chefs’ foods are tasty, eh?
Most times in your own kitchen, it’s a good idea to think like a chef anyway. They and their kin have figured out a lot for us. We pay them for flavor; why not imitate it at home for less a charge?
Chefs use anchovies all the time to add enormous savor to foods. Anchovies are a food very high on the umami or glutamate scale (as are Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, dried tomatoes, mushrooms, soy sauce and sweet corn). A little goes a long way to make us salivate over sauces, dressings, braising liquids, toppings, stews and other wet foods that use anchovy, even a bit.
Frankly, the intense flavor, even aroma, of anchovy melts into and quite disappears when used these ways in the kitchen. The pungency of the misplaced eyebrow is just a one-off at the pizza parlor; it’s not the norm in good cooking.
A small tin of anchovy ought to be a permanent resident in either your pantry or refrigerator. A tube of anchovy paste lasts months opened and refrigerated. (Be sure to store it upright if opened; it may weep if stored tip or nozzle down.)
Two types of preserved anchovy are available: the salted and oiled variety of which you’re more familiar, but also the “silver” anchovies that are vinegared and oiled. These often come from Spain or southern France. They’re like tiny silver slivers of light.
And they’re much prettier to look at, if you’re squeamish about eating eyebrows.
Asparagus with Anchovy and Egg Sauce
Adapted from “Culinaria Italy”; makes 1 1/2 cups
- 2 pounds asparagus, well cleaned and cooked (steamed, boiled, roasted, grilled)
- 3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 anchovies, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
Separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs. Lightly mash the yolks in a bowl that is large enough for all the ingredients. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, stir; reserve any remaining juice to add to taste toward the end. Add enough olive oil to make a paste, neither too thick nor thin and runny. Keep the oil handy.
Chop up the egg whites and add to the bowl. Add the chopped anchovies and capers, stirring to incorporate everything but not so much as to make a “mayonnaise.” Now, adjust the flavors, grinding in the pepper, adding the salt, and adding more lemon juice or olive oil for taste and consistency. Serve alongside or atop the asparagus.
Reach Bill St John at firstname.lastname@example.org