5 Ways To Incorporate Anchovies Into Your Cooking

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5 Ways To Incorporate Anchovies Into Your Cooking

If you haven’t yet entered your anchovy era, the mention of the flavorful little fish may conjure up visual images of sad, stinky dishes that even the most adventurous of diners want to avoid. But those of us who’ve already jumped on the anchovy train know the truth: that these tiny tinned fish can add a pop of salty, umami flavor to anything they touch. Most of the time, they don’t even taste that fishy. And there’s a good chance that you’ve already been eating foods packed with anchovies anyway, and you just haven’t realized it.

Anchovies are one of the most misunderstood and versatile ingredients you can have in your pantry, which is why we’re going to dive into some of the best ways to use the fish. Whether you’re learning to love these fish for the first time or you’re just looking for new ways to incorporate them into your cooking, these tips will ensure that your future dishes will have that bright anchovy richness we know and love.

1. Melt Your Anchovies into a Sauce

If you’re intimidated by the idea of using whole anchovies, you may want to melt them down into a sauce. Because they break down so easily, you won’t even be able to tell you’re eating fish. Instead of whole chunks of anchovy, you’ll instead enjoy their rich, salty flavor throughout the sauce.

Perhaps the best way to add anchovies into a sauce is by using an anchovy paste, which can usually be found in the grocery store next to the tinned version. Because you’re working with the paste, you don’t even really have to worry about melting the fish down. Can’t find any paste? Stick with the whole anchovy, and just make sure you break up the pieces of fish as they begin to melt into the sauce. You can use the oil in the can for extra flavor.

2. Use Anchovies as a Topping for Toast or Pizza

Feeling a bit more adventurous with your tinned fish? In that case, you may want to eat them whole. You can always eat them alone, of course, but they’re even better when they’re used as a topper for toast. Add tomato and red onion slices along with some basil and a drizzle of olive oil along with the anchovies, or just keep things simple with toasted bread (optionally rubbed with a garlic clove) and the anchovies straight from the can.

And of course, we can’t forget about anchovy pizza. The fish really shine when they’re enjoyed on a tomato-dominated pie. Make your own anchovy pizza at home, or just add the fish on top of a delivery pizza. 

3. Incorporate Anchovies into a Salad Dressing

You may or may not know that one of the most iconic salad dressings of all time—Caesar salad dressing—is traditionally made with anchovies. That’s what gives Caesar salad its beautifully salty, complex flavor profile despite the lack of a ton of different ingredients. Making your own Caesar salad dressing is a great way to use up the fish you have in the back of the pantry, but you can also use them for other types of dressing as well. This salad with anchovy-mustard vinaigrette from NYT Cooking is a great example of how much flavor the fish can inject into a simple dressing.

4. Give Your Marinades a Kick with Anchovies

If these little fish can be transformed into sauces and dressings, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that they can also be used in marinades. Flank steak takes particularly well to an anchovy marinade, but you can chop them up, add oil, vinegar and a host of spices to a bowl and season just about any cut of meat (or even tofu) in a matter of minutes. Anchovies have a particularly strong flavor, so you only need a few to turn a bland piece of meat into a restaurant-quality main dish.

5. Create Flavorful Anchovy Butter

There are few pleasures in this life quite as acute as anchovy butter. It’s just what it sounds like: chopped anchovies incorporated into a block of butter, a condiment that makes every slice of bread you eat taste like a gourmet meal. It’s about as simple as it gets—just mince the fish, add them to softened butter and mix until combined. Keep it in your fridge for several days so you always have some on hand for both cooking and snacking.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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