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Oct 23, 2013 03:51 PM

Which do you cook with - white or cured anchovies?

I love anchovies and use them quite often as an ingredient. I just recently learned about white anchovies. Do you prefer white or cured for cooking or does it depend on the dish?

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  1. Cured. White are insipid and look like dead fish.

    1 Reply
    1. I fell in love with white anchovies in spain-they were served on salads, toasts, and in pinxtos and has a very mild delicate flavor. They were small and cured. I sometimes find them in well stocked groceries, or in nyc at De Espana- but the delicate flavor i do not use to cook with- be sure to look for ones from spain, they are not cheap (approx $5-6)
      I use common cured anchovies in oil for cooking with, their flavor is much more intense

      1. Cured. White anchovies are pickled and firmer than the salty umami bombs one uses for cooking. This is not to say one is better than the other. I love a good salty anchovy pizza; but another of my drinking pleasures is hot crusty bread with goat cheese, roasted pepper and boquerones. It's salty, sweet, sour and utterly delicious.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JungMann

          Yes, exactly. They are two different things (from the same fish), and I am slightly surprised at the confusion.

          "White" anchovies, also known by the Spanish name boquerones, are fresh fish that have been marinated and have a vinegary or lemony (depending) taste. They are usually eaten alone or as part of an hors d'oeuvre or other savory dish, where they are a protagonist. Italy makes them as well as Spain. They are called alici marinate. One of my favorite restaurants in Rome serves them with burrata as an antipasto.

          Cured anchovies are the same fish that have been placed under salt for months (or more). Oil-packed anchovies are simply the same salt-cured fish cleaned off and placed in oil on an industrial scale, but the same thing can be done piece-by-piece at home (usually with better oil). The range of quality can be vast, from the wildly expensive but amazingly delicious examples found on the Cantabrian (north) coast of Spain (I have been told that all the bones are removed with tweezers), so precious that they are to be eaten on their own, to the nasty little brown lines on low-end pizza. For normal kitchen use, it's best to choose in the mid-upper range. I buy the Calabrian Callipo brand, packed in extra virgin olive oil, but I don't know if it's available outside Italy. I also buy salt-packed Cantabrian anchovies by the piece and fillet them myself.

          When we go to Santander, we stock up on the really good ones for eating. Try them next to some great mozzarella di bufala.

          1. re: mbfant

            Call me an idiot I guess but thanks for the clarification.

        2. All that work to cure them is for naught in a cooked dish. The big question is, canned in oil or salted? If you're a serious anchovy-user, that big tin of salted anchovies has a fine shelf life in the fridge if you transfer the contents to a better container, much nicer than having to open a little can just to use one fishie.

          3 Replies
          1. re: lemons

            You have to clean the salt packed right?

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              Yes. Boquerones are already cleaned before they are marinated.

              With the salt-packed, you first scrape off all the salt you can. They have already been decapitated, thank goodness, but you have to make a slit in the belly with the tip of a small knife, then gently separate the two halves, discarding the backbone and guts. Remove the fins too, and tail. Then rinse in wine, water, or white vinegar, and blot on paper towels. They are ready to use now, but can be stored in olive oil.

              1. re: mbfant

                My method is to rinse the salt off under running water and toss the fish in a cup or glass of fresh water (not a big deal how guess is it's about 3/4 to one cup H2O) for anywhere for 10 to 30 minutes depending on what else I'm doing in the kitchen.

                I then pull off the fin on the bottom and/or top and use my thumbnail at the larger end of the anchovy to nudge the flesh away from the bone on one side. It's easy to peel it back, because by then the soak has loosened things up. You can then strip the spine and its bones off the other side. Pinch off the tail if there is one. The small black line of gut will come out easily and probably as a result of all this. The filets, which is what you now have, are ready to use.

          2. I just open the supermarket "own label" tin. Would they be white anchovies or cured?

            4 Replies
            1. re: Harters

              are they brownish? that would be cured.

              white anchovies are white. :)

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Brownish - thanks.

                I buy the white ones, when I'm in Spain, from the weekly market in the village. They're preserved in vinegar and are great as tapas.

                Didnt know if the canning process changed the colour and hadnt appreciated there were the two types.

                1. re: Harters

                  i got hooked on the white ones while in spain as well.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Ah...same here! They were one of the many goodies i brought back home with me... Somehow not the same without a loud taberna and glass of cidre.....