Spanish Anchovies from the Folks at Fishwife

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Superb hand-crafted anchovies from the Cantabrian Sea

In the new “A Taste of Zingerman’s Food Philosophy” pamphlet, we included an Abecedary of Zingerman’s Foods. First on the list?

A is for Anchovies. Most of the American public’s exposure to anchovies has been, I’m sorry to say, to fairly low-quality fish—as a result of which, anchovies have gotten a bad rap. Here at Zingerman’s though, we have long sourced and sold anchovies that are among the finest foods you’ll find anywhere. They are some of the tastiest items we have available! The best anchovies—the only kind we work with here—are made from freshly caught fish that are quickly cleaned, then cured for many months in rock salt. This is very much the way the best anchovies would have been 2000 years ago. In cooking, anchovies will melt gently into a sauce. The addition of a few anchovies will do for savory items much of what vanilla does for baking, adding richness, roundness, and complexity. Used as whole filets, great anchovies atop a Bakehouse baguette that’s been spread generously with cultured butter is one of the best snacks I know. Artisan pasta tossed with anchovies and olive oil is a delicious meal that you can make in a matter of minutes!

These anchovy filets that folks at Fishwife source from the cold waters of the Cantabrian Sea would be a wonderful way to experience all of the above. Writing in The New Consumer two years ago last week, Dan Frommer says, “Fishwife, a Los Angeles-based startup, is reinvigorating a grocery category one can at a time.” Along with the folks at Patagonia Provisions they are really doing just that—purveying high-quality tinned fish that brings American artisans back to the level of quality that long-time European companies like Ortiz never left. To be clear, I use the word “quality” here both in the Zingerman’s context of full-flavored and very traditionally-made, and also in Robert Pirsig’s sense of a universal ideal. Everything about these anchovies is excellent—from the eating quality of the little fish, back to Becca and Caroline’s values-based approach to business, to the small company they source the fish from, to the beautiful illustrations on the package by designer Danny Miller.

The Fishwives are getting these great anchovy fillets from a third-generation cannery in Northern Spain beside the Cantabrian Sea, which is the only MSC-certified anchovy fishery in Europe. The quality of the little fish is increased—both subjectively and objectively—by being packed in really good Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil (most anchovies, even really good ones, are packed in the lower grade “pure” oil). Here’s a bit of what the Fishwives share about this new offering: “This fishery is known worldwide for producing the highest-quality anchovies, famous for their rich flavor and buttery texture.” It’s also done great work with sustainability standards, and, the Fishwives say, “continues to support thousands of local fishermen, cannery workers, and other folks employed by the Cantabrian fishing industry.”

What should you do with such delicious little fish? I gave you some of my favorites up top—a Bakehouse baguette spread with good butter and topped with these anchovy filets is so awesomely good I could probably eat it almost every day! (Take note that in anchovy fishing areas this would be a typical breakfast meal to have with morning coffee!). The Fishwife folks made “eggs in the hole”—toasted bread with a whole cut out of the middle and a poached egg placed there instead—topped with a few filets of anchovy and a sprinkle of Marash red pepper flakes. There’s no end to what you can do with these wonderful little fish! Experiment and enjoy!