Acciughe Sotto Sale
I missed out for years on the wonders of the anchovy. It was always something that I turned my nose up at, and culturally I feel like all American kids were trained, in my day, to think anchovies were the most disgusting things on earth. Cartoons with anchovy pizzas stinking up rooms, thinking that people who ate them must have the worst breath in the world. They should have been targeting quarter pounders and supersized fries, not one of the world’s healthiest food.
My mother-in-law buys jars of these artisinally salted anchovies in Lavagna, near Genova, where anchovies are a religion, served every way possible. These treasures in a glass jar don’t come cheap, but they are a little piece of heaven. They are a pain to clean, and it is a process, but well worth it. They need to first be rinsed in cold water to get the salt off, carefully pulling out their spines and pulling off that pesky tail without breaking the anchovy too much. After months in that salt they become very delicate. Another rinse and then dry them out on clean paper towels. We then place them in a dish and pour good extra-virgin olive oil over them to cover them. They are usually best after a night in the olive oil, but a few hours will also do.
We use them to cook with, adding that delicious umami to pasta dishes that need a little extra love. When the anchovies have all been consumed, we filter the oil and use that to cook with, which adds great flavor to most things and leaves nothing to waste. Our favorite way to eat these guys though is to smear unsalted butter on good crusty bread and lay a few of these babies on top, a delicious little antipasto, but is also the perfect meal with a little salad on the side.