Newbie Anchovy Advice
January 19, 2013 8:19 AM   Subscribe

I had an anchovy freak-out a few months ago, and really want to give this 'superfood' a new chance. Please help!

I've heard so much about anchovy and a few months ago tried adding it to salad. I enjoyed it sometimes, but once ate a bone and was freaked out. Are anchovy supposed to have bone when you buy it in a can? Are we supposed to eat it? I'm also looking for advice on how to prepare it to bring for lunch to work. thanks in advance for your advice! I did see this previous post, but I felt it wasn't really geared towards a newbie:

posted by Draccy to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you're talking about canned anchovy, yes, once in a while there will be some bones... don't worry about them, crunch them down!

In terms of taking them to work, why not just bring the can, a container of crackers and go for it....
posted by HuronBob at 8:29 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bones are standard, in my experience, and you eat them. Calcium!
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:30 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you want a gentle start into a food that still makes you a bit uncomfortable, try anchovy paste. You can add it to all kinds of sauces and dressings for that rich, salty flavor, without having the physicality of a food you're having trouble with. It's also cheap, and keeps well in the fridge. Ease into it.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:32 AM on January 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

Frequent anchovy eater here, I've never had a bone from a can of anchovies but if it really puts you off, you might like to try anchovy paste instead?
posted by humph at 8:33 AM on January 19, 2013

Are anchovy supposed to have bone when you buy it in a can?

Sometimes. You can buy whole anchovies, and you can buy fillets. The fillets can have the odd bone in them, but the whole fish have spines and everything. But the things you put on salads tend to be the fillets.

Are we supposed to eat it?

Yes. Unlike larger fish, where the bones can pose something of a choking hazard, anchovies are habitually eaten whole. You just pop 'em in and munch 'em down.
posted by valkyryn at 8:46 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was thinking of canned fillets, I should say. I find tiny bones in them frequently.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:47 AM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing paste. Best thing to keep in the fridge to add a hit of umami to sauces, dressing, soups, stews... Basically anything.

(Best thing: Marmite. But that's not refrigerated.)
posted by supercres at 8:55 AM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The bones are fine.

And if you can bring hot food to work, or have a microwave on hand, I recommend using it in pasta sauces which you make for dinner and then take leftovers to work. The great thing about cooking with anchovies in sauces is, you chop them up a bit, but then they sort of....dissolve when you're cooking. It's kind of neat.

Pasta puttanesca is one - and you can make that dead-easy by just taking a jar of regular tomato sauce and throwing in some chopped black olive, a few capers, and a couple chopped anchovies. Throw that all in the sauce while you're heating it up on the stove.

Then there's an oddball pasta I've made - for a quarter pound of pasta (serves one), go with about a quarter cup of olive oil, a couple chopped cloves of garlic, a couple chopped anchovies, and a quarter to a third of a cup of chopped walnuts. While the pasta's cooking, you heat up the olive oil, saute the garlic in that until it colors, toss in the anchovies and cook a minute more until the anchovy dissolves, then take that off the heat; toss that with the drained pasta and the walnuts. I know this sounds weird as all hell, but it's really tasty and it's fantastic for those "holy shit i'm starving and i haven't been grocery shopping yet this week what can i make" moments.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As one who appreciates anchovies I would remind you that they maybe best opened, heated and (sometimes) consumed alone/outside or in a hermetically sealed container--they are not without their own aroma. Do not accidentally spill/place the associated oil close to anyone who does not appreciate their goodness. Enjoy
posted by rmhsinc at 9:34 AM on January 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm also looking for advice on how to prepare it to bring for lunch to work.

If you share your workplace lunch area with other people, please do so, as rmhsinc suggests, in a manner that minimizes the exposure of your co-workers to anchovy smells.

I have a co-worker who occasionally lunches on canned herring at his desk using the method suggested by HuronBob (cracking open a can and going at it with crackers). Last time he did this—a couple yards from me in an open office—I gagged so hard from the smell I had to swallow my bile back down and flee with my laptop to an un-contaminated atmosphere elsewhere for an hour.

How about incorporating your anchovies into a tapenade that you can bring to work cold and spoon onto slices of crusty bread? Blending the ingredients into a paste might help break down the bones so you get no surprise crunches. (The photo in the recipe I linked to looks wrong—too chunky, plus it appears to have feta or something crumbled on top.) Plus, I think this preparation would minimize the fish smell any lunchtime bystanders would be exposed to.
posted by Orinda at 10:01 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anchovies are great on pizza.

Also pasta alla olio. Garlic, olive oil and anchovies on linguini topped with parmesan reggiano cheese. Total addiction.
posted by AuntieRuth at 10:33 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, canned anchovies of all kinds are intended to be drained and rinsed several times to get the insane amount of salt off of them.

No one, of course and including me, does this. But just a thought.
posted by digitalprimate at 10:38 AM on January 19, 2013

Best answer: try pasta puttanesca! (you can also make a sauce like that and put on bread)
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 11:26 AM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, canned anchovies of all kinds are intended to be drained and rinsed several times to get the insane amount of salt off of them.

Actually, there are anchovies packed in salt, and anchovies packed in oil. The little cans you find in most supermarkets are the latter, and you do not have to rinse them before eating them (although using the packing oil is, um, optional) . The ones packed in salt are mostly only available at old-world style Italian delis, and these do need the multiple rinses.

That said, anchovies packed in oil are pretty salty. If you use them in pasta sauce (as a couple of people have suggested), don't add any extra salt!
posted by mr vino at 11:31 AM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I love anchovies in real Caesar salad dressing - so much better than the stuff in the jar or the type made without anchovies. If you Google, you can find a ton of recipes for this (I recall Martha Stewart's being extra tasty).

I also love this recipe, where you get great flavor from the anchovies but no big pieces. It keeps well if you want to take it in your lunch:

Pasta with Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower (adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook)
Serves 6

Olive oil
18 ounces broccoli, trimmed, with a few inches of stem intact
18 ounces cauliflower, leaves removed and stem end trimmed
1 small head fennel, trimmed and cored
Sea salt
1-1/2 T capers, rinsed, pressed dry, and coarsely chopped
1-1/2 pounds pasta
1-1/2 T chopped anchovy fillets
6 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly pounded in a mortar
8 pinches dried chili flakes
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pitted black olives
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon

1. Slice the broccoli, cauliflower, and fennel about 1/8-inch thick. Don't worry about small pieces that crumble off or if the slices are slightly uneven - just save everything.
2. Heat two large non-stick skillets over medium heat. Also put a big pot of water on a burner over high heat and bring to a boil.
3. Add a generous amount of oil to cover the bottom of both skillets. Add most of the broccoli, cauliflower, and fennel, leaving behind the smaller crumby bits. Let the veggies cook until the edges brown a bit, about three minutes. Salt lightly, and stir gently. Add a bit more oil and scrape the remaining veggies into the pan. Add the capers and stir gently. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally - be sure to allow the veggies to sit a good amount of the time so they can get brown and crispy.
4. Meanwhile, once the pasta boils, add a generous amount of salt along with the pasta. Cook until al dente, drain, and then return to the pot.
5. Once the veggies have shrunk by about a third and are browned and mostly tender, combine them in one skillet. Reduce the heat, add a bit more oil, and scatter over the anchovies, garlic, fennel seeds, and chili flakes. Stir everything until evenly distributed and cook for another few minutes. Add the parsley and olives, toss, and then taste - adjust for any ingredients that need a stronger flavor.
6. Toss together the veggies and the pasta. Squeeze the lemon juice over and toss to combine. Serve right away.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:01 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Toast + schmear of mashed avocado + anchovies is an easy lunch to make at work as long as you've got a toaster.
posted by sriracha at 12:38 PM on January 19, 2013

Best answer: Blendertime! Just make a simple vinaigrette. Some nice oil, a bit of vinegar or lemon juice, one or two canned strips of anchovies and blend it. Maybe it needs a little more salt or pepper. Just this simple, foamy liquid over a some crunchy greens (leafs or cooked leftovers). My ultimate 3 minute side dish.
posted by ouke at 4:13 PM on January 19, 2013

Best answer: Bones are totally normal. In fact, if you have a recipe where there's not too many ingredients and a slow cook in a frying pan, you can sample a little over say 20 minutes and see how the bones themselves collapse down and dissolve to nothing.

Best example -

Fry in good olive oil a chopped onion, two chopped portabello mushrooms and a couple of rashers of bacon for 10 minutes, while you put two of servings of spaghetti on to cook. After 10 minutes, add a half can if anchovies (chopped into 1/2 inch pieces) and 15ish green olives cut in two, and cook for 5 minutes whilst the anchovies disintegrate and the spaghetti finishes and you drain it. Mix the savory stuff with the drained pasta, season and grate over some good Parmesan.

It's good because the anchovies (for once) get to fight to be king of the umami, and you can contrast cooked anchovies with the remainder of the can at the end...
posted by cromagnon at 4:41 PM on January 19, 2013

I use the ones packed in salt. Soak in water for 15 minutes first, then carefully cut down the middle and split it in half. Then pull the spine out in one piece. Scrape out any guts and also the silver part of the skin. A little more work than the pre-filleted kind in oil but worth it I think.
posted by jockc at 12:39 AM on January 20, 2013

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