Overview It’s been said that the world can be divided between two camps: thosewho love anchovies and those who hate them. Cookbook author Lynn Nicholsonand Pacific Northwest top chef and restaurateur, John Nelson, are clearly fromthe former camp, and are out to create many converts with their new cookbook,Anchovies!: The Art of Cooking with the Little Fish with the Big Flavor. While Europeans have been enjoying anchovies for centuriesit’spractically been a staple in some areas of Spain, Italy, and FranceAmericanshave taken their time to warm up to this “super fish”. They’ve pushed up theirnoses at the mere mention of anchovies, proclaiming them: too salty, too fishy!“However, most people would admit to never having really tried anchoviesoutside of biting in to an overly salty, cheap anchovy fillet thrown on top of pizza,”says chef Nelson. The tides have been changing and Americans are beginning tooftenunknowinglyenjoy anchovies. If menus at top restaurants around the countryare any indicator, the anchovy has become hot. At Anchovies & Olives restaurantin Seattleone of Bon Appetit’s “10 Best New Restaurants in America” theyfeature the Italian-inspired Bagna Cauda, Fried Oysters with Anchovy Dressing,and a Beet Salad with a White Anchovy Dressing, among other anchovy-inspireddishes. The chef at Sorella, a popular restaurant on the Lower East Side of NewYork City, reports her favorite item on the menuand clearly a hit amongcustomersis the appetizer of Ligurian anchovies. And the couple who runs Bon
Chovie, specializing inyou guessed it, anchoviesreports crisping up 80pounds of fried anchovies over a weekend between its two locations in Brooklyn,NY. (The New York Times, Dining & Wine section, April 17, 2012) After mostly making cameo appearances in Caesar salads and strewnatop pizzas, today’s chefs have begun to drop their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policiesregarding their “secret ingredient” and are either slipping anchovies subtly in totheir recipes or boldly placing anchovies front and center on their menus.Suddenly, it seems, people can’t get enough of the little fish with the big flavor. While discerning diners are perusing menus, fishing for savory bites orentrees that have that special-something flavor, unbeknownst to them, in manycases, the little anchovy is often invisibly tucked in to even the simplest dishes toprovide the depth, richness, and otherworldliness that alone only the littleanchovy can provide. “The key to understanding anchovy flavoring is to realizethat the presence of anchovies in food can range dramatically, from subtle tointense…when they are dispersed throughout other ingredients, they don’t add astrong, fishy, telltale taste. They just make a finished dish taste better,” explainsNicholson. The mystery behind anchovies is that they are loaded with “umami,” theso-called fifth taste, an element in certain foods that lifts the flavors of everythingit’s blended with. “This means you can blend a little anchovy with a grillingrublike one with red wine, olive oil, garlic, and basiland it will help all the
flavors blossom while the anchovy will fade in to the background,” explainsNicholson. “The anchovy is the culinary equivalent of the Wonderbra. It adds body toflat food. But like the Wonderbra, nobody should suspect it is there,” wrote JuliaWatson, food columnist for ivillage.com. Whether served with tomato and mint on top of bruschetta, whirled in tosalad dressings, blended in to mashed potatoes, or used to infuse main dishes ofpork or lamb to add depth, many chefs use the anchovy as their go-to ingredientfor adding a rich, round flavor, and a sharp scent to a large variety of dishes.“Anchovies have a clear, strong, base note flavor that lends a depth andcomplexity to many dishes. They are a perfect starting point from which to build adish,” remarks Nicholson. “The real reason most people are opposed to anchovies or think theydon’t like them is because they have never tasted a good-quality anchovy,properly used,” says chef Nelson. The secret to learning to love the anchovy, heexplains, is knowing how to cook with them.About the Book The creative impetus behind Anchovies! stirred when Nicholson andNelson were working on their cookbook, It Started with Caesar: 150 RecipesInspired by the Flavors of America’s Favorite Salad. “I was doing research on
anchovies for that cookbook, and realized there was no definitive book onanchovies. Fish cookbooks rarely gave them a passing glance,” says Nicholson.“I also discovered that anchovies are a lot of chefs’ secret weapon,” she reports.The cookbook also spawned from John and Lynn’s mutual love of anchovies. “It’slike we couldn’t stop talking about anchovies, and coming up with new ideas forways to use them in the kitchen,” laughs Nicholson. Nicholson grew up in the Pacific Northwest, including magical summers ata cabin on Hood Canal west of Seattle. Some of her first memories were on thebeach at Hood Canal eating raw oysters shucked by her father. “It was at thispoint, I think, that the umami taste was instilled in my soul and palate,” saysNicholson. In her teens and twenties, she began salmon and tuna fishing up inCanada. “I will always remember the time we ate salmon melt (sperm) pan-friedby a local. It was delicious….not many people have eaten the melt,” laughsNicholson. An extremely “lucky” fisherwoman, she became close to moving toCanada and becoming a fishing guide, and got her name in the Seattle Timessports pages a couple of times for catching a lot of salmon. Years later, in Seattle, she discovered anchovies. It was at a restaurant atPikes Place Market that served the classic Bagna Cauda that she says “was todie for.” “That was my ‘ah-ha’ moment. That’s when I knew anchovies were areally top-secret ingredient that I wanted to incorporate in to my cooking,” saysNicholson.
In her twenties, she started using anchovies in Caesar salads, and makingher own Worcestershire and fish sauces. Then, for nearly four decades,Nicholson traveled the world on a variety of adventures, and recalls eatinganchovies all the time in Spain and Portugal. “We ate fresh anchovies forbreakfast and when I bit in to a succulent anchovy stuffed olives and manchegocheese, I knew I would be in love with anchovies forever,” she says. During her travels, she always fished when possible, and explored thelocal cuisine and markets. From spice markets in Seychelles to the incrediblemarkets in Kenya to colorful Mexican market to the souks in Morocco, Nicholsonliterally spanned the globe; all the while collecting ideas and recipes thatcontained anchovies. Each time she returned home, she began experimenting,utilizing the anchovy’s amazing versatility, veering from the recipes to instill herown favorite ingredients and flavors. Nelson also grew up in the Pacific Northwest where fish and seafoodplayed a big role in his childhood experiences. “When I was a kid running aroundthe docks, we used to jig for anchovies…which I thought was really fun. We ate alot of small fishes, and the natives all had smelt, herring, candlefish…they usedthem for their oils and to burn. Anchovies and small fish felt like an essential partof life.” Nelson’s Scandinavian roots are instilled with memories of his Swedishaunt making herring casserole for breakfast. “Oh my God, was that good,”exclaims Nelson. As a teenager, Nelson traveled through Europe andremembers eating fresh anchovies, and wondering why people in the U.S. didn’teat these really healthy, little fish.
Beginning with his very first restaurant, Nelson started cooking withanchovies. “From flat filets, to fresh or frozen, to paste. Because the flavorimparts so much….the fat is your flavor distributor, plus you have that salt whichis also a flavor enhancer,” says Nelson. “Anchovies have been one of my ‘secret’ingredients in my restaurant for years,” confides Nelson. “You know the saying:what you don’t know, won’t hurt you?” Over time, however, nosey dinersdemanded to know what was creating the depth, the divine ‘otherness’ of somany of his dishes. “So I told them,” laughs Nelson. “I guess the fish is out of thebag!” When Nicholson and chef Nelson met and began working on theircookbook, 100 Ways to Do Caesar, the two were like a match made in the sea.Chef Nelson’s affinity for “anything fish or seafood” was matched scale by scaleby Nicholson’s love for “all things anchovy.” It wasn’t long before the idea forAnchovies! was born. “We wanted to show the versatility of the anchovy, that they aren’t just forCaesar salads or as a topping for pizza,” explains Nicholson. In Anchovies!, thetwo chefs reveal how anchovies are sensational additions to everything fromstarters to salads to main dishes and vegetables, as well as sauces andseasonings. Professional chefs will be delighted by the wide variety ofsophisticated recipes, while home gourmands will become properly acquaintedwith how to prepare the “king of fishes” in ways sure to spice up their culinaryrepertoire.
Anchovies! has unique recipes for sensational starters like CreamyBagna Cauda, Black Olive Tapenade, and Anchovy Fries with Smoky CaesarAioli to crisp Caesar Salad to main dishes like Leg of Lamb with Anchovy Sauce,Zarzuela Seafood Stew and Skate with Anchovy, Basil and Roasted Tomatoes toclassic Pasta Puttanesca to exotic-tasting vegetables like Asparagus withAnchovies and Capers or Onion Tart with Anchovy to meaty and rich sauces likeSpicy Tomato Ragu or Arugula and Basil Olive Oil with Anchovy Onion. An international recipes chapter showcases the global use of anchoviesfrom a Genoese Fish Salad to Jansson’s Temptationa traditional Swedishcasseroleto Ceviche from Southeast Asia to Anchovy Balls with Tomato fromVietnam and Boquerones a la Malaguena and Escabeche from the Philippines. Achapter devoted to Game Dishes includes such exotic recipes as Elk Lasagna,Rabbit Polenta Terrine with Truffled Mascarpone, Black Trumpet Mushrooms andChervil, Tea Smoked Duck with Arugula Salad, and Water Chestnut-PancettaVinaigrette. With a wide variety of recipes, ranging from relatively simple to highlysophisticated, Anchovies! will appeal to both novice and experienced cooks.Anchovies! will give both professional chefs and home cooks that inside edgewith exciting new recipes harboring a “secret ingredient” while presenting boldnew flavors.