Since canned food is having a big moment, I’d say now is the time to reconsider the humble canned anchovy. They have a reputation for being overwhelmingly fishy and salty—and those rumours aren’t exactly untrue—but they also possess a deep minerality and ton of umami. When melted into butter (or olive oil), you can harness the little fish’s intense nature to bring a wallop of flavour to any savoury dish.
If you are concerned about bones, don’t be. The tiny little fish bones disintegrate right into your cooking oil, but you can always mash the little filets with a mortar and pestle if you need to be extra sure. If—due to anti-anchovy pizza propaganda—you are wary of over-fishifying your meal, start with a couple of tablespoons of butter per fish, then increase the number of filets until you feel comfortable inverting that ratio.
Once the anchovies are melted into the butter (just cook over medium heat and mash ‘em around with a wooden spoon until they disintegrate), you get to decide which dish you get to bless with this potent, flavorful concoction. Pasta sauce is a good place to start, as the anchovy butter will add a deep, savoury flavour that, thanks to acidic tomatoes, won’t read as fishy.
Once you’ve eaten that, make more anchovy butter, then thin the butter out by whisking it with olive oil (or more melted butter) and drizzle it on roasted vegetables (especially potatoes) or a big bowl of popcorn. After drizzling, you’re ready for dipping. Melt at least five little fishes in half a cup of butter—perhaps with a little garlic this time—and dip roasted artichoke leaves and radishes directly into it. Have a frozen filet of a larger fish or some thawed shrimp that are reading as a little bland? Brush them with anchovy butter to up the seafood factor.
Basically, if a savoury food needs a little more flavour, anchovy butter is the quickest way to impart it. If nothing else, it makes an excellent base for pantry pasta—just toss it with your favourite noodle with a little pasta water, then add breadcrumbs, parm, or whatever else you have lying around. “Cacio e pepe who?” is what you’ll be saying. Cacio e pepe who?