Wait! Keep reading - don't turn away just because I said the "A" word. Why is everyone so afraid of anchovies? Why do anchovy virgins cringe at the very sight of them? If I can convince just one reader to give these little fish a fair chance, I will have accomplished my good deed for the day.
Anchovies–and especially good anchovies–bestow a piquancy that you can't achieve any other way. It's an understated, salty, and complex taste that complements so many other flavors. Isn't that reason enough to at least them a whirl?
I'm going to share some tips about buying anchovies, so you have no excuse for not trying them. There are a few different kinds - in a jar, in a can, marinated and whole. Salted, whole anchovies are my top choice when cooking - but if this is your first experience, save the whole ones for another time. If you do buy them whole, soak them first to remove the salt, and carefully fillet the fish away the from the bone. Ever had fish sauce? It's also made with anchovies.
When buying them in a jar, look for those from Spain or Italy, and count on spending about $6 or $7 per jar. Although cheap, I'm not crazy about the Roland brand anchovies - they have the overpowering fishy taste that gave anchovies a bad name.
Here's the best way to get introduced to the unique world of anchovies. Take three fillets from the jar, and mash them up with a fork or knife. Then heat up some olive oil in a saute pan. Turn the heat to low, and add the anchovies. Using a wooden spoon, mash them up until they dissolve. And there you go - the beginning of an amazing clam sauce, puttanesca, sauteed spinach or this delicious string beans recipe.