When Sohla El-Waylly was brainstorming ways to make her Fideos with Chicken Thighs and Kale generally better—and specifically, meatier, richer, and more complex—it didn't take her more than three minutes to land on anchovies. The little oil-cured fish (in this case, there are four of them) dissolve into the mixture of onion, garlic, and tomato paste, providing the salty, savory backbone that the dish had previously been missing. And once you start to look carefully, you'll notice just how many recipes the food editors at BA are sneaking anchovies into.
Not the type of eater who's going to fan out anchovies over a piece of garlic-rubbed toast and call it dinner? Not a problem! I promise that you won't know they're there—until they're not, that is. When you're cooking anchovies, they don't taste fishy. Recipes often call for cooking anchovies until they "melt," i.e. disappear into the fat: They imbue the finished product with a jolt of umami—a why's-this-so-good-deliciousness—that doesn't taste at all "like the sea."
As a somewhat-lapsed vegetarian (fish, sometimes), the revelation that anchovies could improve so many sauces and dressings without making them taste fish-funky led to my dietary demise. (It's also the reason I'll never dare taste pancetta, lest I risk opening another wormhole!) Once I saw how anchovies took tomato sauce from sweet and acidic to bold and balanced (in this Butternut Squash Parmesan and Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce, for example), I was, ahem, hooked.
Sizzle an anchovy in oil before wilting down a big pile of greens (bonus points if you add beans) or add a couple to the pot after you've sautéed the vegetables for a fridge-clean-out soup, or fry a few with garlic and walnuts and use that as a base for a spicy red pesto.
Now that you know the secret, experiment! Anchovies pair well with broccoli, hardy greens like kale and chard, briny things like olives and capers, and lots and lots of Parmesan. If you're an anchovy amateur, start with fewer than the recipe suggests. I’m pretty sure you’ll work your way up.
Get the recipe:Sohla El-Waylly
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit