Why Oil-Packed Anchovies Are The Best Choice For Caesar Salad

can of anchovy filets
can of anchovy filets - Magone/Getty Images

Despite their tiny stature, oil-packed anchovies pack more flavor and pizzazz than many of their larger aquatic counterparts. Though, while flavorful, anchovies are still considered a polarizing ingredient. When improperly used, they risk overwhelming a dish with their pungent aroma and taste, but when utilized correctly, these teensy fish can enliven a sauce, stew, or pasta with a punch of briny, umami flavor. Try thinking of anchovies as the bacon of the sea; more of a flavor enhancer than a central ingredient in your cooking.

Anchovies are easy to find at your local supermarket. They're typically sold jarred or canned, usually filleted, cured in salt, and packed in oil. If you're new to anchovies, one way to cook them is to finely chop up the filets and sauté them with other ingredients or aromatics until they've disintegrated, leaving only their faint fishy flavor. The second method is to dice the filets — edible bones and all — into a paste that you can easily blend into dips, pasta sauce, or a Caesar salad dressing. Yes, this humble ingredient will make your homemade Caesar taste better than anything you'll find on the supermarket shelves. Unlike many bottled dressings, which typically use anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, or no anchovies at all, incorporating olive-packed anchovies into your Caesar dressing will give it an unctuousness and oceanic essence that's hard to beat.

Read more: 12 Underrated Types Of Fish You Should Try At Least Once

Oil-Packed Anchovies: The Ingredient You Didn't Know Your Caesar Was Missing

oil-packed anchovies in can
oil-packed anchovies in can - MaraZe/Shutterstock

Oil-packed anchovies are one of those ingredients that tend to fly under the radar in most dishes. On their own, they can be salty and fishy, which is why draping whole filets atop a cheese pizza is, well, questionable. However, when thoughtfully incorporated into a dish, they provide a subtle depth and complexity that you may or may not be able to identify as "anchovy" but that you crave nonetheless.

This is exactly the role that canned anchovies play in Caesar dressing. Between the garlic, egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard, black pepper, and Parmesan, there are a lot of tastes vying for your mouth's attention. Anchovies act as a counterpoint, with their fatty, umami taste helping to temper the aggressiveness of the other ingredients while also providing the dressing with a greater level of balance and cohesion. Incorporating oil-packed anchovies into your Caesar dressing is a seamless process. And don't worry, people won't wrinkle their noses and complain that their salad tastes like seafood. Just dice the anchovy filets along with your fresh garlic until you have a very smooth paste. Then, whisk the mixture with your egg yolks, mustard, and lemon juice before drizzling in your oil. Sprinkle some in some Parmesan, and your dressing is ready to serve.

Other Dishes That Benefit From The Addition Of Anchovies

spaghetti puttanesca with anchovies
spaghetti puttanesca with anchovies - Igor Dutina/Shutterstock

Oil-packed anchovies are an incredibly versatile ingredient that can quickly elevate the complexity of many different dishes. Since the fish is found in abundance around the Mediterranean coastline, you'll see anchovies featured prominently in Italian, French, Spanish, and Greek cuisines. They make up the foundation of puttanesca sauce, a briny, garlic, and tomato-based pasta sauce, or can be added to lemon, butter, bread crumbs, and capers for a light and fragrant topping for spaghetti.

Anchovies also serve as an excellent foil to roasted vegetables, like carrots or broccoli florets. Just cook your vegetables in olive oil and lay some full filets over the top. If you're looking for a little discretion in your use of anchovies, try blending them with fresh herbs, like cilantro, tarragon, or parsley, bread crumbs, and lemon juice for a punchy salsa verde. But the ideas don't end there. You can dice anchovies up and add them to grain bowls, drape a filet across deviled eggs, lay them on toast, serve with a bitter endive or radicchio salad, or use them to boost the excitement of your next chicken Provencal. But don't get too carried away: You need to save at least a few filets for that show-stopping homemade Caesar dressing.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.