Ever wonder how people develop an aversion to something, even though they have never experienced it? I mean, some things you can just take someone else’s word for, like “Don’t touch a hot stove.” That one seems pretty obvious, right? Or, “Don’t drive with your eyes closed.” But what about “Anchovies are nasty.” Most people I know have never tried them, and never will based on what other people have told them. Let me try to change your mind.
When I lived in Spain (about two decades ago) my buddies and I used to go out to clubs and bars and, well, you get hungry, you know? There was only one McDonalds in Madrid, and being brand new, the concept of fast food was still fairly non-existent to the culture. However, one type of Spanish fast food I really enjoyed were tapas. Tapas, basically, are appetizers commonly served in bars and consisted of typical Mediterranean fare: Manchego cheese, prosciutto, olives, etc. One of the tapas I almost always ordered was boquerones, a term used for anchovies prepared in a vinaigrette. Now, before you move on to the next post in utter disgust, at least finish reading this, and I think you will be surprised.
As you can see from the picture, these anchovies are not what you may be used to. The anchovies most people are familiar with are brown, hairy, and really salty. That is because they have been preserved in a brine solution (salt water), which makes them perfect for adding flavor to dishes. These anchovies practically melt when heated up and dissolve into the dish. But that’s another post altogether.
However, the anchovies I am talking about here are delicious straight-up. These small fish are gutted and de-boned (not like there is much there anyway) and drizzled with olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper, then chilled. After looking high and low for these anchovies locally, either canned or even fresh, I just couldn’t find them anywhere until I spotted a jar of anchovies in oil at a specialty food market. I immediately took 1/4 lb. (at $20 per pound I need to enjoy these in moderation) and couldn’t wait to get home.
These fish, prepared in the vinaigrette, have a firm texture. Unlike fish, which falls apart when cooked, it has a firmer texture like sushi, but without the rubberiness. They would actually taste quite bland if not for the vinaigrette. Interestingly enough, my wife and three children (5, 7, and 9) all enjoyed the fish. In fact, my 7 year old girl couldn’t get enough of them and we fought, toothpick-a-toothpick for the last ones. This is a great example to show that when we don’t patronize our children and assume what they will or will not like, they will actually surprise us.
If you get the opportunity to try these, I highly encourage it. If you have access to fresh anchovies, remove the head, clean them up, and marinate in a lemon vinaigrette (a very easy preparation). Let me know what you think.
Do you like anchovies? Have you tried these boquerones? I’d like to hear from you.