Chef Mike Easton On How to Cook with Anchovies
At Il Corvo, the small handmade-pasta place in Pioneer Square, chef/owner Mike Easton keeps a sharp focus on big, bold flavors. So, naturally, he’s a fan of anchovies, the teeny fish that packs a huge savory-salty punch. He wasn’t always on board, though: “I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and we just didn’t eat much fish. When we did, it was often unpleasant.” It wasn’t until he was 18 and making the Caesar dressing at the Hilton Hotel for the fourth or fifth time that he summoned the courage to try it. He says: “I’ve been a believer ever since.”
His anchovy supplier: Easton purchases anchovies from a wholesale restaurant distributor specializing in Italian products. His favorite: the Sicilian Agostino Recca brand, which come salt-packed and whole. “The salt-packed have a milder flavor than anchovies in oil,” he says.
How he uses them: At Il Corvo, anchovies turn up in pasta sauces, including salsa siciliana (find the recipe here), the vibrant salsa verde (a “green” herb sauce), and the classic puttanesca, a pungent combination of capers, tomatoes and anchovies. The love-it-or-hate-it fish is also a standout in a refreshing cucumber salad dressed with a vinaigrette of puréed anchovies, lemon, garlic and parsley. “That’s one of my favorites!” Easton says. “As kids, we were told anchovies were disgusting little oily fish, and, unfortunately, most of us grew up believing it. A salad like this might change your mind.”
Where you can find them: Most supermarkets carry an assortment of anchovies, which might include salt-packed fish in small jars, which are milder tasting, though a bit more expensive. Prices range from around $3 to $8. It’s also possible to find vacuum-packed white anchovies—ideal for marinating in oil and vinegar and serving as tapas—at specialty shops such as DeLaurenti (1435 First Ave.; 206.622.0141; delaurenti.com) and The Spanish Table (1426 Western Ave.; 206.682.2827; spanishtable.com). Those sell for between about $10 and $20. Easton’s favorite Agostino Recca brand is available on Amazon.com ($11.95 for 2-pound can).