If you’re anything like me, you grew up thinking that anchovies were stinky little fish that oddballs ate on their pizza.
I was well into adulthood before I realized I was missing out on a magic little ingredient; today I consider myself a total convert.
What Are Anchovies?
In a nutshell, anchovies are small, oily fish with a strong, pungent, and briny flavor. They are quite delicious when eaten fresh. I particularly love them fried whole, head and all.
They are uncommon at fish markets here in the U.S. Mostly, you’ll find them preserved in salt or oil, as well as smoked, dried, pickled, and ground into a paste sold in tubes. And here’s something you might not know: Southeast Asian fish sauce is commonly made from—you guessed it—anchovies.
Anchovies are typically sold in small tins or jars. Jarred anchovies are my preference, in part because you can see what you’re getting. Plus, if you use just one or two anchovies, you can pop the jar in the fridge. Tinned anchovies need to be transferred to another container once opened, then refrigerated.
As for which brand to buy, Ortiz is my hands-down favorite. They’re on the pricey end of the spectrum, but a little does go a long way for this recipe. For more budget-friendly options, look for Agostino Recca and Talatta, two Italian brands worth trying.
Are Anchovies Healthy?
Yes! They’re a fatty fish that provides heart healthy omega-3 fats along with protein, selenium, and niacin.
All About the Dressing
One of the simplest ways to unpack the magic of anchovies is to whisk them into a simple salad dressing. I consider this recipe to be an “anchovies for beginners” vinaigrette.
If you’re worried the dressing will taste fishy it won’t. In fact, you might not even know anchovies were in there if someone else made it for you. You’ll just think of it as a tasty, tangy dressing with a lip-smacking flavor that will make you want to eat more salad. And what could be wrong with that?
Where to Use This Dressing
The dressing has many uses, starting with salad. It’s versatile, in that it would be equally good for dressing Romaine, Little Gems, or butter lettuce as it would be for heartier dark leafy greens, such as shredded kale or spinach. You could even make it your dressing of choice for a classic Nicoise Salad. Here are a few other ways to use this dressing:
- Drizzle over steamed broccoli, potatoes, or other cooked vegetables
- Use it to marinate chicken before grilling
- Spoon over halved hard boiled eggs
- Add a tablespoon of chopped capers and drizzle over cooked fish
- Swap it out for a favorite sandwich condiment
- Dip raw crunchy vegetables into it, such as fennel, radishes, and carrots
How Far in Advance Can You Make This?
Ideally, I like to make this dressing the same day I’m using it. That said, you can make it up to a week in advance and store it in the fridge. The dressing will solidify, so take it out, roughly 30 minutes before using and whisk well.
More Umami Packed Recipes with Anchovies
This salad dressing relies on flat anchovy fillets packed in oil and sold in small tins or glass jars. You could substitute anchovy paste if you prefer, figuring one teaspoon in place of the two anchovy fillets.
- 2 flat anchovy fillets
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Cut and mash anchovies:
Stack the anchovies on a cutting board and use a chef’s knife to cut crosswise into thin strips. Use a fork to mash the anchovies against the cutting board into a paste. Scrape the anchovies off the board and place them into a small bowl.
Make the salad dressing:
Add the minced garlic to the bowl of anchovies along with the mustard and vinegar.
Slowly, drizzle in the olive oil into the bowl while simultaneously whisking the ingredients with a fork or a whisk until the dressing emulsifies, with no separation between the mustard, vinegar, and oil. If your bowl slides around on your countertop just set it on top of a towel to prevent it from moving.
Serve or store:
I like to make this dressing right before I use it, but you can keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. It will solidify; set it out at room temp for 30 minutes before using.