More than half of the anchovy haters in the world have never actually tasted an anchovy. I just made up that statistic, but I'm pretty sure it's true, if not actually a bit conservative in the estimate of non-taster-haters. I can state from observation in my cooking classes that anchovies top the list of foods people love to hate - and a lot of people ultimately confess to never having eaten a single anchovy.
Few among us are immune to socially imposed food prejudices. I have no plans to taste dog food, even though it's supposedly fit for human consumption. But anchovies are a delicacy, and dog food is not.
A few weeks ago I got some white anchovies at Whole Foods. In the days when Trader Joe's regularly carried them I considered white anchovies a staple. White anchovies (also called boquerones) come in the dairy case packed in mildly vinegared oil. They're not particularly fishy; no more so than canned tuna. Canned anchovies - the brown ones packed in oil - are fishier. The two types of anchovy start out the same, but the manner of processing intensifies the fish-factor of the tinned variety.
Anchovies are a flavor-enhancing semi-secret ingredient in all sorts of classic recipes. Worcestershire sauce, a lot of pizza sauce recipes, Puttanesca sauce, remoulade, Caesar salad dressing, Salade Nicoise , and Vietnamese fish sauce (nước mắm) are anchovy-inclusive.
To entice you - consider a White Anchovy Martini. If you like even a hint of dirt in your martini you'll love some icy shaken vodka with an anchovy garnish. White anchovies and shaved onion on toast points or crackers make a great appetizer. I can't get enough of a white anchovy sandwich with fresh orange segments and greens.
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If your objection to anchovies is that they're too salty, you're right. I'm not telling anyone to eat them like popcorn. Mashed up into a sauce they're a flavor enhancing salt substitute. In fact, anchovies are a great source of umami - the fifth of the five basic tastes. Anchovies were clearly spawned with a dual purpose; to make food taste better and to stir up culinary controversy.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.