The Salty Allure Of Ortiz Anchovies
I was recently asked by someone opening a wine bar business what my favorite snack to have with a drink was. Olives, fried stuffed olives, guacamole, hummus, prosciutto with melon, oysters, pan con tomate, really good bread and EVOO, liptauer, padron peppers all rushed through my head but much to their surprise I settled on anchovies on toast. No ordinary, hairy, cooking anchovies I said. I mean a tin of Spanish Ortiz anchovies, filleted and packed in olive oil by hand, each fillet immaculately silky smooth with a slight rosy blush and anchovy infused olive oil to mop up after all the fishies are gone. I still got a blank look but I guess one has to be introduced to them in the right situation when even supposed anchovy haters might come around to the idea. I enjoyed Ortiz anchovies at Cumulus Inc. where Andrew McConnell serves them in the tin with bread toasted over a gas flame giving it a dapple of black charring. The combination of salty fish and bitterness from the slightly burnt bread was nothing short of miraculous. I pictured the chefs getting together after service, huddled around the stove, eating this with a few beers and then deciding it was too good not to put it on the menu. Reality is, it is a typical drinks food of Spanish tapas bars. Paired with wine, manzanilla or beer it really hits the spot and a tin is something you can always rustle up from the pantry at last minutes notice, provided you have some bread to toast. It’s the informality of it that I really love, served on a wooden board or just huddled around the stove with mates late at night. Lately I’ve been enjoying them with King Pippin apple cider, the slight sweetness and funky barnyard overtones marrying well with the salty hit. Ortiz’s anchovies are expensive, expect to pay around $18 for a 47.5 gram tin, but it is worth looking around because you can occasionally find them a little cheaper, in which case I would stock up. A few other gourmet brands are popping up at fishmongers and food stores around Melbourne commanding even higher prices but if all this seems too extreme to you for just a bar snack there are two brands that are a fraction of these prices and also quite good quality; Cuca anchovies in olive oil from Spain and the Italian Rizzoli brand can be found in supermarkets and delis for around $5.
The best quality things are still done with care by hand not machine. Think wine, tea and asparagus. Each have there own techniques and demands. Filleting and packing Ortiz anchovies is truly a labour of love, so enjoy them.
Just for fun.