Even though anchovies are mainly eaten in their preserved form (salted or in oil) they are very tasty when cooked fresh. In Italy there are a lot of places that uses fresh anchovies for pasta, main dishes, side dishes, appetizer and the list goes on and on.
Fresh anchovies: properties
This small fish is highly praised in many places in Italy and that is due to its taste and nutritional value. When anchovies fishing season arrive, you can find this fish in the market at a very low price, and I usually buy in large quantities, then clean, gut, vacuum and freeze in small portions, ready to be used.
Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and protein, anchovies are ideal for our health. Those nutrients are crucial for boosting our metabolism, maintain a healthy heart and overall for our general health. Even a small portion of the fish can bring benefits.
Fresh anchovies: how to clean and gut
Cleaning the anchovies is very simple, since they’re small you won’t find big bones and scales are very easy to wash away.
Steps to remove the fishbone:
1. Grab the fish body with one hand, with the thumb and forefinger of the other hand grab the head.
2. With a gentle downward motion, detach the head and tear off the guts that will be attached.
3. Run your thumbnail along the bone starting to detach the flesh on one side, open the fish and pull gently the fishbone detach it from the other side.
4. Clean the fish with water to remove any gut residue.
There are a lot of video on YouTube that you can find on how to do this, especially if you do not like that kind of messy and smelly job.
As alternative you can ask your fishmonger to clean it, or some even sells already cleaned and deboned anchovies ready to be prepared.
Healthy fish and chips
This recipe is what I call a healthy version of fish and chips, you’ll get the crunch on the outside of the fish and they’ll be soft on the inside, but also very tasty. You can pair this fish recipe with small cubes of pan fried potatoes or baked potatoes.
I usually shallow fry potatoes in a pan when I have less time to wait for them to bake, you could pre-boil them for 5 to ten minutes then add some oil garlic and rosemary to a pan, wait util aromatic, then cook the potatoes.
This recipe is gluten free so can be enjoyed also by them who have celiac disease or do not consume gluten.
Anchovies gratin recipe
- 8/10 anchovies per person (3/4 if you want to use them as appetizer)
- coarse cornmeal
- ground rolled oats
- salt and pepper to taste
- powdered garlic
- extra virgin olive oil
- cayenne pepper (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 180°FAN (370F). Lightly oil the baking tray with a brush or line it with parchment/wax paper and brush the paper with some oil.
Mix the cornmeal with the oats, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper. Put the anchovies on the tray and sprinkle the mix onto each fish.
Drizzle some oil on the fish then cook in the oven for 10 minutes or until you can see the bits of gratin becoming golden brown. Check the fish constantly. When overcooked they become very hard.
Serve with lemon, tartare sauce and a side of baked or shallow fried potatoes and some salad or other vegetable.
Tips and tricks
You could add some herbs to the mix to make the fish more tasty, such as origano, parsley, marjoram, mint, rosemary, thyme, sage or a mix all those together. You can prepare your special mix by adding into a jar your favorite dried herbs along with some dried chili pepper ready to sprinkle on meat and fish of your choice. The mix is also very good on focaccia and white crunchy pizza.