Small Fish, Big Oceans: Anchovies
In the spirit of the commitment by chefs worldwide to use under-utilized fish like anchovies, herring and sardines in their restaurants on World Oceans Day, Crown Prince Seafood encourages you to try these delicious and nutritious small fish in your recipes at home as often as you can.
We prefer to call these small fish “The Daily Special” as there is nothing trashy about them. In the next few weeks we’ll be sharing stories and recipes from around the world for anchovies, herring and sardines and invite you to share your recipes with us by entering our Small Fish Recipe Sweepstakes.
Anchovies are a small, common salt water forage fish found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. There are 144 species of fish which can be called anchovy. Their taste differs due to the area in which they are harvested, the age at which they are caught, and the method of preparation. Most of us in the United States are familiar with the salt cured anchovy from Morocco, Spain, France, Italy or Peru. These can be tasty additions to salads, pizzas, sauces and tapenades, but these uses hardly reflect the importance of anchovies in cooking around the world.
Fresh anchovies pickled in vinegar are called boquerones en vinagre in Spain; southern Indian states eat fresh anchovies either fried or in a spicy curry; the Philippines is home to Ginataang dilis, a sauce of anchovies, peppers, greens, and coconut milk; and Turkish cooks created Balik Bugulama as a stew to use these abundant fish. Anchovies also are the principal ingredient of sauces like Thai nam pla, Vietnamese nuoc mam, Filipino bagoong, and Malaysian budu; all showcase the wonderful fishy essence of anchovies. In fact, anchovies have played a very important role in cuisine since before Roman times, influencing the drive for ocean domination, fishing territories, and salt production, all of which were interwoven.
Fresh anchovies were abundant in the U.S. from West Coast fisheries until the 1950’s. As the California sardine fishery declined due to over exploitation, harvesters turned to anchovies as a replacement. This stock too was soon over fished and restrictions were placed on their use for all but bait fish and fish meal. Only 2,100 metric tons were harvested in 2010, so you have to be very lucky and live on the West Coast to have the opportunity to try fresh anchovies. Try this recipe using canned anchovies:
- 3/4 pound pitted black olives, such as Kalamata, Nicoise or Gaeta
- 3 to 4 ounces capers, drained and rinsed
- 2 anchovy fillets, drained, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 bay leaf, finely chopped
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cognac or brandy
- 1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine well, then allow to process until mixture is coarsely pureed. Taste for seasoning, then serve as a dip alongside crusty bread with goat cheese, grilled vegetables or chicken, or tossed with cooked pasta and fresh herbs.
Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, 2001