I get excited by shiny new toys in the kitchen. Not so much when it comes to gadgets, though I do love an ergonomic vegetable peeler as much as the next guy. For me, it’s all about the premium ingredient.
And so, it was with very little apprehension that I handed over a not insignificant sum of money for a tin of what I have long been told is the crown prince of Italian umami. Yep, you’re talking to the proud owner of more than a pound of salted anchovies.
It is a given in every Italian cookbook that you’ll encounter a section on ingredients that urges you to skip the small tins of oil-packed anchovies for their superior salt-cured cousins. Now that I have caved and made the investment, I have to admit…it is a better product.
Yes, they’re a bit more work, as you have to clean and fillet them off the tiny bones, but we’re talking a minute’s worth of effort using your paring knife, followed by a quick rinse to remove the excess salt. The result is a good-sized and fresher looking anchovy. The flavor…well, I would compare it to the taste of iodized table salt versus sea or kosher salt. The inferior option includes the main taste of the ingredient, but it also brings along a number of off-putting notes.
Interestingly, in the case of both table salt and oil-packed anchovies, it’s a tinny, metallic flavor, and I have a strong feeling that it’s what people who “don’t like anchovies” are really reacting to. Salt-packed are subtler and have a truer, more pleasing “ocean” flavor.”
What’s the best way to showcase these beauties? How about…