Eating anchovies is one of life’s guiltless pleasures. I say guiltless because they are affordable, good for you, and very sustainable. But best of all they simply taste great and are quick to prepare. All that is required is a hot grill, a drizzle of olive oil, and a bright squeeze of fresh lemons.
Mention fresh anchovies to a lot of your friends and you will get wrinkled expressions of anguish. Sadly, anchovies have both a stigma of being strong-flavored and hard to clean. Neither is true. In this post, I will walk you through how to clean fresh/frozen anchovies and 2 of my favorites quick preparations that you will love.
BIG FLAVOR, tiny carbon footprint.
Small schooling fish have a small carbon footprint because catching them doesn’t burn much fossil fuel. The boat circles a net around a school of fish and fills a net. It takes less time and less fuel to fill a net resulting in a fish better for the environment. Nathan Pelletier, an ecological economist, and industrial ecologist specializing in food system sustainability at the University of British Columbia says: “Abundant fisheries, from a climate change perspective, will be less greenhouse gas-intensive, all else being equal, the more fish there are, the less energy we will have to invest in chasing them around and catching them.”
Check to see if your fishmonger has fresh anchovies. If not, many have flash-frozen anchovies that work just as well. Unless you live in a country like France where the fishermen will gladly prep your fish for you you will have to learn how to do it yourself. It is extremely simple and quick to do. I created this short video for you to watch or follow along with the instructions below.
Use a small pairing knife to make a small slit in the belly of the anchovy. Run your finger inside the belly under running water to quickly wash away the guts. Use a small knife to cut through the backbone, separating the head from the spine. Pull the spine out. Some people like to remove both the head and tail – I like to leave them on.
Three Quick and Easy Recipes
The easiest way to prepare fresh anchovies and sardines is to throw them on a super hot grill and cook both sides until they are crispy, about 2 minutes per side. Then drizzle with fruity olive oil and flavor with a squeeze of lemon juice. Here are 2 of my favorite ways to prepare anchovies and sardines. What are yours? Let me know in the comments section.
Grilled Anchovies with Feta, Dried Orange, and Fennel
A simple preparation of anchovies or sardines with classic Mediterranean flavors.
- 1/4 cup feta cheese
- 1/2 tsp dried orange peel chopped fine
- 2 tsp fennel fronds
- 1 tsp pastis
- pinch black pepper
- pinch red chili flake
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 pound fresh anchovies or sardines deboned
- 1 cup tomato sauce
In a large bowl, mix the feta, orange zest, fennel, pastis, pepper, chili, and olive oil. Take an extremely small amount of the filling and put inside the anchovies. Grill over a hot charcoal or wood fire until down. Serve in a pool of warm tomato sauce.
Grilled Anchovies with Preserved Lemon, Thyme, and Breadcrumbs 'Sonia Style'
An online friend shared her secret recipe for fresh anchovies. The beauty of the preserved lemon with the oily anchovies makes a combination that is incredible to eat.
- 1/2 preserved lemon chopped fine
- 2 tsp fresh thyme chopped
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 tsp Espelette pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 pound fresh anchovies deboned
- 2 tbsp olive oil
In a large bowl, mix the lemon, thyme, breadcrumbs, pepper, and olive oil. Equally divide the filling and stuff into anchovies. Cook over a hot charcoal or wood fire until done, about 3 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.