Everything You Need To Know About Anchovies

Everybody knows what anchovies are. Those little silver slivers of fish oh so many people and mutant, crime-fighting turtles love to hate might need some revisiting. NPR described these little fish of the herring family as pungent, intensely fishy, and salty, which is exactly the reason why it's important to give them a second chance if you're not already on the 'chovy train. Anchovies are one of those rare foods that have that mysterious fifth taste known as umami. And Oooh Mami, the savoriness of anchovies is what keeps you coming back for more.

Part of the reason these little fish get such a bad rap is due to the processing that they go through, but the fish itself isn't the one to blame there. It's been an ingredient used across the globe since ancient times. From the ancient Romans to Chinese, anchovies have been used in condiments precisely because of what a powerful punch comes out of such a tiny little fish. And though they may have been used primarily for that strong taste, it's not the only reason people should give anchovies a second chance.

The health benefits of anchovies

Anchovies not only pack a punch flavor-wise, but can give a jolt to your system when it comes to health benefits. According to Health Benefits Times, anchovies can do a plethora of things for your body, starting with the immense amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that do their best to banish the unwanted cholesterol that binds up arteries, which is responsible for things like strokes and heart attacks. Omega-3 even has properties linked to anti-inflammatory effects. But of course, that's not all.

Being rich in the mineral selenium and vitamin E, this tiny, little fish do a great deal of good when it comes to promoting healthy skin. Not bad for something generally considered visceral and slimy. Vitamin E can even reduce the risk of sunburn. The combination of these nutrients help prevent things like breakouts and promote smooth skin and a nice complexion, though these are just a handful of the benefits. Others include promoting bone health, weight loss, and a healthy digestive system, as well as tissue repair and salty goodness.

Where to get fresh anchovies

Though traditionally a Mediterranean component, anchovies have been finding their way into grocery stores and popular restaurants across the States. According to The New York Times, big name chefs, Mario Batali included, have been buying up fresh anchovies and throwing this little underdog of a fish onto menus. While some are mixed in with potato salads or green, anchovies have been finding their way into pasta dishes and garnishes for other seafood second courses.

While anchovies may not have been thought of as the most elegant fish to dine on, a lot of upscale, chic grocery stores have been adding them to the aisles. Places like Balducci's, Dean & DeLuca, and Eli's Manhattan have begun carrying marinated anchovies from anywhere between $12 and $20 a pound. If that sounds a little on the pricey side, there are always other options, as seafood markets will carry them at a fraction of the price. Or if you're looking for a fraction of a fraction of the price, there are always the canned and jarred 'chovies, ever present and passed by in most supermarkets.

Canned and jarred anchovies and how to store them

While fresh anchovies may be ideal, My Recipes doesn't think you need to shy away from them just because they're in a tin. In fact, canned anchovies tend to be better than in a glass jar on account of the fish lying down, making it easier to preserve their fragile bodies when removing them. Since the fish are usually standing up, anchovies in jars are going to be different levels of quality, depending on where they are inside.

One thing to be careful of when using canned or jarred anchovies is how they're stored. While it may be obvious that fresh fish need to be kept cool and consumed quickly, anchovies, in general, are very sensitive to heat. Even though they may not be refrigerated in the store, it's best to keep your anchovies in a cool place when brought home, as they have a tendency to dissolve when stored in fluctuating temperatures. However, that isn't to say there aren't some tricks to keep your newly beloved anchovies safe when out of the fridge.

The anchovy life hack

While anchovies are becoming more and more popular across the globe, southern Italians have been using a very simple trick that is sure to be a dinner party favorite. According to La Cucina Italiana, places like Sicily and the Campania regions of Italy have, historically, been marinating raw anchovies and serving them up as easy, flavorful appetizers that anyone can enjoy. All you need is some anchovies, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, pink pepper, and garlic.

The steps are incredibly simple. First thing is to clean your anchovies, if they're not already cleaned for you. You can do this by pressing down between the head and the body of the fish lightly, and letting the head fall off, then running your finger down the belly and pulling the backbone out. Run them under some water and dry them off gently. Then you just put your anchovies in a tray and cover them with oil, mixing in the parsley, lemon juice, pink pepper, and chopped garlic. Then, pop a sheet of plastic wrap over the tray and let them sit in the fridge for about 48 hours. And buon appetito!