My Foray into Cooking with Anchovies: Tomato & Anchovy Tomato Sauce & Three Onion Dip

It has been quite a while since I last posted here. I have neither forgotten about this blog, nor have I lost interest in cooking. Truth be told, this autumn has been a busy one. Work was unrelenting, particularly in September. Coupled with my girlfriend’s move in September, most of my free time was occupied. September culminated with my computer’s untimely death (au revoir, hard drive) and until I received my wireless keyboard, blogging seemed out of the question. October followed suit with one thing after another, including a wedding and a trip to Iceland. All good things, of course.  Needless to say, I’m sitting down to bust out a post with a subject matter that I wouldn’t have even entertained a year or so ago.

Today’s theme revolves around the notion of anchovies and the way in which they add both richness and saltiness to enhance a dish’s properties. I am like most people, in that when I hear the word “anchovies”, I quiver and quickly enter a state of disgust. Even the word itself sounds dubious, let alone the sight and smell of this small, salt-water, forager fish. I have heard tall tales from chefs and people I know about the use of anchovies in cooking and how they seem to better any dish, sauce, or dip. After all, cooking is about entertaining just about any idea and putting it into practice. I used anchovies in two different, but enhancing ways: first, in a pasta sauce and secondly, as an additive in one of my favorite dips ever: onion dip.

First off, I would like to make the declaration that concocting one’s own homemade pasta sauce is always worth it. There is a freshness to homemade sauce cannot be found in any pre-bottled or canned sauces. And let’s be honest, unless you are buying your pasta from Eataly in New York, the sauce is of paramount importance. This tomato and anchovy butter sauce consists of very few ingredients: unsalted butter, anchovy fillets, garlic cloves, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and any tender herb (flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, or chives). Anchovies are tiny in nature, so I was more than elated when after adding the butter to the saucepan, the anchovies dissolved within a matter of minutes, never to be seen again (or until the three onion dip recipe that follows this one). The anchovies add a richness and saltiness that really make this simple sauce a standout.

The three onion dip recipe requires carmelizing onions and features other members of the onion family: garlic, chives, and charred scallions. This dip would be delicious with or without anchovies, but as I mentioned before, anything gets a boost from the rich and saltyness that the anchovies provide.

Tomato & Anchovy Butter Pasta Sauce
Recipe from the June 2014 issue of Bon Appétit
Yields 4 servings

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 anchovy fillets
4 sliced garlic cloves
2 lbs. quartered medium tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped tender herbs (flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, chives)

Cook 1/2 lb. spaghetti; drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Meanwhile, heat 4 tbsp. unsalted butter over medium heat. Cook 2 anchovy fillets and 4 sliced garlic cloves, stirring often, until anchovies are broken down and garlic is soft, about 4 minutes. Add 2 lb. quartered medum tomatoes; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until falling apart, 8-10 minutes. Toss in pasta and cooking liquid; cook until sauce coasts pasta, about 2 minutes. Toss in chopped herbs.

I suggest doubling this one, so you have ample sauce for other occasions. Saying this sauce is addicting would be a grave understatement.

Three Onion Dip
Serves 6

2 tbsp + 1 tsp. vegetable oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
4 garlic cloves, divided
4 scallions, green and white parts separated
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise 
1/3 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Potato chips, for serving

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions, anchovies, and 1 tbsp. garlic. Cook, stirring often, until onions are golden brown and softened, 40-45 minutes. If onions start to burn or stick, reduce heat and add water a splash at a time, scraping up browned bits. Let cool, then finely chop.

Meanwhile, heat a dry medium skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Toss scallion whites with remaining 1 tsp. oil; season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning occasionally, until charred, about 5 minutes. Let cool; finely chop. Thinly slice greens.

Mix onion mixture, scallion whites and greens, mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream, chives, Worcestershire, and remaining garlic in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Serve with chips. Lots of chips.

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