Anchovies are one of those things that people have very strong opinions about. Just as these little salted fish have a strong flavor, so do people have very strong thoughts on how and indeed if, these should be used in Italian food at all. Even people that love all kinds of Italian food, vehemently reject the flavor of anchovies in their meals.
What happens on occasion is that people have had a bad experience with trying to eat pieces of pizza smothered with little dried up smelly fish. Usually, these experiences are the result of someone making the food who really is not an expert cook. And they just dump a huge handful or three of anchovies onto a pizza with no real regard for authentic flavor combinations. Anchovies are used in a lot of Italian dishes, but they are rarely the primary flavoring ingredient. They combine with other great spicy flavors to make some of those flavors unique to great Italian food.
These little fish are used quite extensively in many Italian dishes like a puttanesca sauce or tapenade and the truth is once they are mixed into the recipe, you would have a real hard time singling out the anchovy flavor.
Anchovies come from the sea, they are a saltwater fish caught extensively in the Mediterranean Sea, often off the coasts of Spain or Italy during the spring and summer seasons. The Italian anchovies are a little bit lighter in flavor than the Spanish ones, but both can be quite tasty when you mix them together in your recipe
These small fish, usually about 3 inches long or so, must be preserved quickly to get the ultimate amount of flavor in your meal. Anchovies are most often preserved in salt, and while this makes for a really strong briny flavor, this is perfect for some authentically flavored Italian dishes. Right after they are caught, the fish are dunked into salt water and spread out to dry in the sun. When they are dry enough they get packed into cans in layers with a layer of sea salt in between them. Then they season for a couple of months and the cans are sealed for distribution.
It is easy to see with this kind of preparation, why anchovies have that very distinctive salty flavor.
Sometimes you can also obtain anchovies that have been packed in olive oil. The olive oil adds an extra nuance of flavor to the fish and these are not quite as salty as the ones cured with sea salt. The best thing to do is probably prepare your dishes with both kinds of anchovies and then decide which you like better. In the case of a tapenade, you might be serving as an appetizer; your guests might actually prefer the saltier taste because they will probably be having drinks. But testing is the best way to go. For more info click ristorantepavarotti.com
When you are preparing great classic Italian dishes at home, the flavor of anchovies can play a big part in the authenticity of your dish. And as long as you orchestrate your flavors so that they all combine well, even anchovy haters will sing the praises of your dinners. And why not, because good food is meant to be good fun.
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