There was a time when my daughter would fish anchovies out of the jar and eat them whole, and when both kids lapped them up on pizza, and those times are no more. They don’t dislike anchovies so much as they don’t prefer them. Whole, anyway. But my pantry would not be stocked if I didn’t have an open jar of anchovies in the refrigerator and one waiting in the pantry just in case. I’m pretty sure that Phyllis over at dash and bella feels the same way.  You never know exactly when you’re going to need them, you just know you need them a lot. They’re like salt, only better.  I layer them on pizza, throw them in pasta with walnuts, dissolve them in oil and garlic and tomato paste to coat spaghetti, mash them with garlic and lemon and olive oil several times a week for a faux caesar dressing.  They go in sauteed leeks and over romanesco.  A few times a winter we gather around bagna cauda.

And just when I didn’t think a good thing could get any better, I bought this enormous tin of salt packed anchovies. As I stood in the Italian deli holding the heavy tin, which you can clearly see cost $23.95, I told myself just this once, and it’s for Christmas, and these will last a long, long time.  Because really, $24 for anchovies is a lot of money.  And even though I was warned by a fellow shopper that this tin didn’t last a month in her house, I was pretty sure I could be parsimonious. Ha. Ha.

The anchovies were a necessity for our Christmas crab dinner because I was hellbent on making Zuni’s caesar salad exactly as we’d just had it that restaurant. And the recipe calls for salt-packed anchovies. Also there was the fact that Marcella Hazan has been admonishing me for years that these salt-packed beauties are superior–less salty, more meaty, more flavorful–to the jarred, oil-packed version.  Now I freely admit: Hazan is right.  On Christmas, they went into the superb dressing, and then because I still had more than a pound and half of anchovies left I thought what-the-heck and made a batch of fegatini and then some bagna cauda, which was better and more delicious–richer and more fully flavored–than any I’ve ever made.

It’s true, there are a helluva lot of anchovies in the tin. They nestle up against each other, coasted in coarse salt, and they’re dark and weird and smell a little bit of the ocean. Every time I look them I feel like I am beholding a lot of money.   It’s also true that I find an excuse to use them almost every day.  They live in a glass jar in the refrigerator, and I cover them with additional salt as needed.  The only thing more fun than smashing them with a mortar & pestle is rinsing them under running water, then slitting their little bodies with my thumb and pulling away the spine. Because you know, it’s the little things.

Green Chard with Leek, Garlic and Anchovies

  • 1 bunch green chard
  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped roughly, white & tender green parts
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 salt-packed anchovy filets
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • olive oil
  1. Separate chard stems from leaves. Roughly chop the stems and set aside.  Chop the leaves into wide (2 inch) ribbons.
  2. Rinse anchovy under running water and remove spine.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium high heat.
  4. Add garlic, anchovy and chard stems to pan and sautee until anchovies dissolve and stems are tender-crisp.
  5. Add leek slices and chard leaves and sautee until greens are tender.
  6. Turn off heat and toss with lemon juice. Serve immediately.