Should you buy salt- or oil-packed anchovies?May 26, 2013 by Lindsay
With the discovery of umami, and the further discovery that anchovies are packed with this flavor component, anchovies have expanded their food reach way beyond pizza. As their ability to impart umami doesn’t depend on quantity, and as anchovies dissolve easily which masks their flavor, it’s easy to add succulence without a fish taste.
Which brings us to our question of the day – should you buy salt- or oil-packed anchovies?Conventional wisdom started with Alice Waters, who originally laid down the rule that salt-packed is better. But, after awhile, other authors have weighed in, noting this is no longer true.
Chow recently revisited this question in Are the Best Anchovies Oil-Packed or Salt-Packed? Their preference is for salt-packed as they argue that the quality of the oil in oil-packed anchovies isn’t particularly good, so they should be blotted dry. Further, there can be a lot more work involved with salt-packed anchovies which “should either be soaked for several minutes or thoroughly rinsed in cool water in order to remove the excess salt.”
However, the good news is that this advice tends to apply to standard supermarket brands. The Spanish take care with their oil-packed sardines and have, over the past several years, expanded their exports. So if you prefer the ease of oil-packed, finding a Spanish brand, especially from Catalonia, is worth the effort. Cook’s Illustrated, in a taste-test from several years ago, especially recommends the Ortiz brand.
We should note that there was one point of uniform agreement – never buy anchovy paste.
And, now that you’ve bought great anchovies, if you want to highlight them, try this recipe from Dorie Greenspan for Pissaladière – it earned 5 stars.
Photo courtesy of Fine Cooking.com
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