By Erica Martinez
Anchovy, the real definition: ‘an-,cho-ve’ any small, marine, herring-like fish of the family Engraulidae, esp. Engraulis encrasicholus, found in the Mediterranean Sea, often preserved in oil and used in salads, spreads, etc., or packaged in paste form.
If you’d asked me two weeks ago what I thought of anchovies, I’d have told you they were the lonely, oily little fishes ignored at the pizza parlor. Rarely ordered and the butt of many-a-food jokes,,anchovies were the strong flavored, gray tinged, unattractive fillets packed away in cans of oil or jars of salt. Truth be told, I’d never tasted them.
Last weekend, as fate would have it, I decided to make a Saturday dinner of hanger steak topped with Provencal butter — i.e. butter combined with lots of ingredients…including anchovy. The recipe looked delicious, as did the accompanying picture — why not give it a shot? The Provencal butter was amazing melted over the steak. It was flavored with chive, thyme, garlic, lemon zest and anchovy, which gave it a salty, savory and completely un-fishy flavor. The chosen wine was Super T, a masterful blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Would I say the wine was a good pairing with anchovy? Not necessarily. The wine was excellent with the steak. The anchovy was just there for ‘decoration.’
The next night I found myself with a can full of anchovies (I only used 2 for the steak). Never one to waste, I contemplated what to do with them. My equally food-adoring husband had the solution: Caesar Salad and Anchovy Pizza would be on the table that night. We whipped up some Caesar dressing — complete with anchovies — and topped our pizza dough with fresh tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, anchovy fillets, capers and chili peppers, a recipe inspired by a pizza at Mario Batali’s Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in New York.
Dinner was superb. We polished off the rest of the Super T from the previous night while oooh-ing and ahhh-ing over our fish-filled meal. Not really thinking, initially, that the oaky characteristics from the wine would highlight the saltiness of the anchovy, or that the black cherry flavor may accent the capers, yet, for some reason, the wine did just that. My first anchovy experience was nothing less than super…much like the Super T that (surprisingly) accompanied it.