Weeknight Cooking

A Couple Jars of Anchovies, 5 Dinners

September 29, 2014

Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples -- or your seasonal produce -- every which way. 

Today: Drop some umami bombs into these five recipes for an explosion of flavor.

To many, anchovies are a scary ingredient: They’re bony, briny, tiny, and slimy.

Shop the Story

But we just can’t get enough of them. We firmly believe that they can make any savory dish better. Packed in olive oil and salt, anchovies add depth and umami -- the coveted fifth taste -- to so many dishes. This more complex version of salt will improve almost anything you make; you may think your favorite recipe is impossible to improve -- but if you’ve never put an anchovy on it, you can't be sure.

The only thing fishy about anchovies is how much flavor they pack for their size. Get over your fear of these harmless bottom-feeders, pop open a jar, and use them to add a punch of salt to your dinners this week.

More: Honestly, does anything sound better than spicy anchovy butter?

Caesar-Style Kale Salad with Roasted Onions and Ricotta Salata
A classic way to use anchovies is to blend them with lemon juice, oil, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper in a Caesar salad dressing. The salty fishiness penetrates the creaminess of the dressing. But when you don’t want to make an average, everyday Caesar salad with romaine and croutons, use lacinato kale instead. Its raw sturdiness will hold up to the dressing, roasted onions, bacon, and cheese you toss it with. As opposed to a classic Caesar, this salad has a variety of textures and flavors: sweetness from the onions, saltiness from the capers, smokiness from the bacon, bitterness from the kale, tartness from the lemon, and -- of course -- umami from the anchovies.

Bagna Cauda Toasts with Radicchio, Egg, and Avocado
It’s acceptable to have toast for dinner -- but only if you add anchovies. This comfort food is all about balance: layers of flavors and textures that complement one another perfectly. One of the best smells in the world is garlic and anchovies (and maybe a little crushed red pepper) sizzling in a pan of olive oil and butter -- and that’s exactly how this dish starts. The warm dressing slackens layers of shredded radicchio, arugula, cheese, egg, and avocado, creating a contrasting texture to the crispy bread. Lather on the anchovy-flavored dressing, then serve this dish as crostini at a weeknight dinner party -- or, more realistically, eat it all yourself.

Pantry Pissaladière
At last, a use for whole anchovy fillets in all their skinny little glory. This is like white pizza -- except nine million times better. And you probably won’t need to buy anything extra for it. It’s a clear-out-your-pantry type of meal (hence the name). One bite and you’ll be transported to Nice, where this pizza-like tart of onions, olives, and anchovies is a popular street food. It may look pretty monochrome, but what it lacks in color, it makes up in taste: big, salty bites of anchovies and olives paired with sweet, caramelized onions and a hint of thyme.

Broccoli Aglio e Olio with Gremolata Breadcrumbs
Take a simple, classic Italian dish, spaghetti aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic and oil), and kick it up a notch by adding a flavor bomb (anchovies, of course) and a little crunch (breadcrumbs). It’s another dish that begins with the olfactory paradise that is garlic and anchovies sautéing together in a pan. Add a little salt and that alone would make a flavorful pasta topping. But you’re going for over-the-top, so throw in broccoli for some color, Aleppo pepper for a little zing, and lemony breadcrumbs for texture. Never look back.

Lamb Biftekia with Anchovy, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Mint
Fun fact: Fish and meat are friends. They go hand-in-hand. So it’s no real surprise that when perfectly charred skewers of lamb are dipped in an anchovy-packed sauce, the result is glorious. Of course, the dipping sauce needs a touch of brightness, so whip out the mortar and pestle, and combine your little fishy friends with fresh mint, parsley, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice, and capers. Then, you’re ready to go Greek.

What are your favorite ways to use anchovies? Tell us in the comments!

Lamb photo by Mark Weinberg; all others by James Ransom

Order now

A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ann-Marie D. Nguyen-Shavurova
    Ann-Marie D. Nguyen-Shavurova
  • Lilismom
  • AntoniaJames
Emi Boscamp

Written by: Emi Boscamp

Editorial Intern, Food52


Ann-Marie D. September 29, 2014
Not 100% sure how to keep them, but in our cooking school they wrap them in plastic wrap - each one - and when we use them, we unwrap it (i.e. Caesar salad you only use one for a serving to mix into the salad dressing). Would be curious to hear too as I¨m totally obsessed! We make ´real´classic Caesar salad and also anchovy-flavored pasta - to die for!
Lilismom September 29, 2014
I love anchovies and recently purchased a large (800g) tin of Agostino Recca salt packed anchovies. I have not opened the can since I am not sure of how to keep them. Could you help me here?
AntoniaJames September 29, 2014
Yes, I've been known to eat this anchovy cheese for dinner: https://food52.com/recipes/8098-anchovy-cheese ;o)