Anchovies - a chef's secret

Anchovies... a love/hate relationship?  It shouldn't be!  You should ALWAYS love anchovies, you should just be more picky about where you source them from!  Fresh anchovies are delicious and flavor packed with a cucumber and fresh ocean smell.  So the question then is, why do some people NOT like anchovies?  The answer is pretty simple actually; unlike other larger fish, anchovies do not hold up that well once they are pulled out of the water.  After being exposed to air, anchovies deteriorate faster than most any other fish, which means anchovies that are 24 hours out of water are a lot different than anchovies that were harvested that morning.  Anchovies are best when cooked or prepared the same day as they were pulled up out of the ocean - which is near impossible for grocery stores, and can be a tricky task for restaurants as well.    Luckily for us (and you!), we work with a boat in San Francisco that brings them into Pier 45, fresh, alive, and very jumpy early every morning.  You can trust that anchovies from us are delivered just hours from the time when they've been caught!

Fun Fact: 

Northern anchovy generally prefer cooler ocean conditions, while Pacific sardine typically do better when waters become warmer. Some scientists believe that the populations of these two forage fish may therefore have an inverse relationship determined by large-scale, naturally occurring temperature variations.

Fries with Eyes!

Your first thought with anchovies may be to cure them; while this is a great idea, when fresh, these fish are perfect for frying!  Preparing them (heading, gutting, and deboning if you so desire) is really simple and easy (check out the video below).  We love to leave the bones in - they are completely edible and provide a nice 'crunch.'  A simple dredge in a spiced flour mix (rice flour works really nicely as well) is all this fish needs to be spectacular - although a few dipping sauces definitely make this treat into an exciting meal or appetizer!  We will always include this recipe in with your deliveries.  Don't want to fry it? No worries! We have three other recipes to choose from and inspire!

How to clean an Anchovy?

The video above is a great resource for how to clean and prepare your anchovies.  My only critique would be that after you have rinsed your cleaned anchovy it should be kept on ice in your refrigerator until you are ready to cook them, even if you are going to be cooking them soon.  If you are having a hard time pinching off the heads you could always use a knife and cut off the head, and then slice the belly open and clean out the guts.  Be sure to give them a good rinse under COLD water once you have finished.

For the kids... and adults!

Eggs and soldiers are one of the breakfasts' that I will always cherish... there's something to be said about an interactive meal :) 

This Gordon Ramsey approved twist on the classic is a delicious way to enjoy your fresh anchovies, and before you know it, your kids will be asking when the anchovies will be back!

The Details

Northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) are small, short-lived pelagic fish found across the eastern Pacific Ocean. They are active filter feeders, and consume various types of plankton. Ecologically, anchovies play an important role as common prey for many species of birds, mammals, and fish. Historically in California, anchovy supplied a large reduction fishery, which produced fish meal, oil, and soluble protein. They are currently utilized for human consumption, bait, and pet food. Large-scale anchovy landings were first seen in the early 1900s during times of low sardine availability. Commercial landings have been low since the 1980s due to market constraints rather than biological factors. Northern anchovy are monitored under the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan.

Health Benefits

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy unsaturated fats that lower inflammation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating one or two 3-ounce servings of oily fish each week reduces your risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent, according to research published in the October 2006 issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association."

Twenty grams of fresh anchovy fillets have 2 percent of the recommended daily intake of magnesium, 3 percent of calcium and 5 percent of phosphorus. All three minerals are essential for the growth and maintenance of strong bones.

The same serving of anchovies also provides 19 percent of the daily intake of niacin, 4 percent of vitamin B-12 and 2 percent of vitamin B-6. Vitamins B-12 and B-6 remove a substance from the blood that contributes to heart disease. Niacin lowers levels of cholesterol and triglycerides and may reduce the chance of dying from a heart attack, according to Oregon State University.

Anchovies are a rich source of iron, with 20 grams of fresh fish containing 12 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 5 percent for women. Iron is well-known as the transporter of oxygen throughout the body, but it's also necessary for cells to make energy and to help white blood cells kill bacteria.

- Sandi Busch, Healthy Eating, SFGate

Be sure and toss the guts!

Northern anchovies are filter feeders, so they feed on algae and other small organisms.  Even though these are great for the anchovies, its not great for us to eat the guts, so throw them away and give the anchovies a good rinse under cold water after you prep them!

How is it caught?

Our anchovies are caught fresh every morning with a purse seine.  "Purse seining establishes a large wall of netting to encircle schools of fish. Fishermen pull the bottom of the netting closed—like a drawstring purse—to herd fish into the center. This method is used to catch schooling fish, such as sardines, or species that gather to spawn, such as squid."  (SeafoodWatch)

How old are these guys?

For the most part the anchovy has a short life.  It's pretty rare to find them over 7 inches long - which would be about 4 years of age.  There have been reports of anchovies over 9 inches long and 7 years old... crazy!  You can count on them being various sizes up the 4 inches, if you find a big guy be sure and snap a photo!