I did it. It took me quite some time (like 30-some years) to overcome my personal issue of Mageiricophobia: Preparing a whole fish! I know, I know, they’re not the biggest of their kind, but hey, I dealt with a complete army. Starred at by some dozen pair of eyes, I had to gut them and couldn’t help but think about Barbara’s apposite essay: Meat Comes from Animals: Deal with It, or Eat Vegetables (it has to be one of the longest blog entries I have ever read, start to finish).
In the past I would have gracefully declined if I had been offered Anchovies, especially on pizza. Today I’m so-so friends with the overly salty tasting canned version, yet I don’t have to have them on a regular basis – in a sauce that’s a bit of a different story. However, fresh and self cured anchovies don’t have much in common with their salty friends. Preserved in olive oil, the tender and juicy filets make a delectable dish.
Although the below directions are simple and certainly don’t require a degree in surgery, it is a tedious process and necessitates a certain amount of patience. Anyway, if you’re into marinated anchovies or think you are, the effort is well worth it! There is no easy way to describe this, so get ready for some more or less graphic description. We’ve tried to clean them in several ways, this is the one that worked best for us:
Wash and clean the anchovies. Remove their heads by using your thumb and index finger, then turn the anchovies belly side up and slide your thumb along their backbones and discards the innards. Remove the backbone (with the tail) and the tiny bone, or whatever it is, that’s hiding ‘behind’ the backbone. Rinse briefly and set them aside skin side down on a paper towel.
Add anchovies to a flat dish and squeeze the lemon juice with the sherry vinegar over the fish, sprinkle with two to three pinches of salt. Allow to marinate for about 30-40 minutes until the flesh is white and no longer translucent. Very gently rinse the fish one last time, pad dry.
Note: Alternatively, you can soak the filets in only sherry vinegar, a mixture of half vinegar and half water or just lemon juice. The vinegar will add more acidity, but also soften any remaining little bones – if you cleaned the anchovies well, no need to worry!
Now layer anchovies in a clean flat dish alternating with chilies, minced garlic, herbs and spices. Add enough olive oil to fully cover the filets, marinate overnight and keep chilled until ready to serve. We loved them both as tapa or served on Crostini (on top of a toasted baguette slice).
The little delicacies made a perfect cold starter during the current heat wave and they’ll be back on our table within the next week. Btw, I was pretty surprised to find out that it’s not as simple as going to a fishmonger and buy fresh anchovies to prepare Boquerones. The fishmongers I talked to only sell them once or twice a week. We got ours at Poseideon, right next to the Viktualienmarket, where they usually sell the little ones Tuesdays and Fridays.
Recipe source: inspired by our friend Kristin's version
Prep time: 30-45min., infusing: 24 hours
Ingredients (serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer):
500g fresh anchovies
juice of one lemon
5 tbsp of sherry vinegar
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1-2 red chili, thinly sliced
fresh parsley and thyme, finely chopped
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil extra vergine