One of my earliest assignments as my mother's sous-chef for her dinner parties and open houses, was to mix together “Liptauer,” a soft cheese spread indigenous to many regions of the Austro-Hungarian empire. I’ve never cared much for the original’s defining flavors -- caraway seeds and paprika -- so as I’d prepare the spread, I’d mix all of the ingredients except those two, set some aside for myself, and then complete the spread and set it out. My mother also entrusted me to prepare all of the crudités for her parties, including what we called “radish rosettes.” I must have carved thousands – well, it sure seemed like that – over the years. I was never a big fan of raw radishes, but oh, how I enjoyed that anchovy and caper scented butter and cream cheese spread slathered generously over those rosettes. (The small “petals” of the rosettes provide extra places to fill up with the spread!) Today, I use the basic ingredients from that old recipe, giving it my own interpretation, replacing the caraway seeds and paprika with just a touch of parsley and lemon, making the anchovies the focal point. You can serve this with plain crackers or herbed flatbread, but do put a small knife out, as this really is not a dip. Also, if you know your guests appreciate anchovies, use four or five to garnish the top, radiating them from the center of the dish or mound. Otherwise, finely chopped parsley and a few toasted pine nuts can be used to pretty this up. Enjoy! ;o) —AntoniaJames
about a cup (can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled)
4 ounces cream cheese (softened, at room temperature) or any similar cheese
4 ounces (1 stick, or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature (soft and easily spread)
3 tablespoons crème fraiche or sour cream
8-10 anchovies (more or less -- fewer if using large ones), plus more to taste and/or to garnish,
2 teaspoon of capers,, drained and coarsely chopped, plus a few more for garnish, if desired
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or more to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, divided in half
Thoroughly cream together the butter, cream cheese and crème fraiche. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the anchovies with the chopped capers to make a fine paste. Add the anchovy paste and the mustard, chives, half of the chopped parsley (or all, if you plan to garnish with anchovies), and the lemon zest and juice. Stir well to blend thoroughly.
Taste and add more lemon, mustard or anchovies, to taste. (You’ll need to pound the additional anchovies, of course.) Shape into a mound onto a small plate surrounded by radish rosettes or plain crackers. I do this using a bowl that I’ve lightly rinsed with water beforehand. I stuff the spread into it, then turn it out, smoothing with a butter knife once it’s on the plate. You can also serve this in several medium ramekins.
Garnish with anchovies, radiating from the center, piling on a few capers at the intersection. Or sprinkle with the remaining chopped parsley. Or some toasted pine nuts. Whatever you like.
Serve with water biscuits, thin slices of toasted baguette, or on radish rosettes.
If you really like paprika and caraway seeds, feel free to add a tablespoon or so of each. The result will be more complex, with the anchovies less dominant. You'll essentially have an anchovy-heavy Liptauer.
When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)