There have long existed traditional recipes, centuries-old, for dishes that first thrilled me decades ago, and that even today make my mouth water. And the one I’m about to belabor today is PERFECT for entertaining, one that will impress greatly and be highly memorable. The Riviera’s classic recipes spring to mind when I give it a shot at naming my own favorites. The Riviera, of course, is that sort-of unboundaried strip of coastal land (5 miles wide? 25 miles?) that runs along the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea from La Spezia and the Cinqueterre in the east (the Italian Riviera Levante), both part of the half-moon-shaped region of Italy called Liguria, all the way west along and across the Italian Riviera Ponente (still Liguria), and then along the French Riviera, all the way to and a bit past Marseilles and the Bouche-du-Rhone where the Riviera begins to be just the coast of Languedoc, running on west toward Roussillon and what is known as the French Catalan coast, Collioure and Banyuls.
Anchoiade is popular there, too, but its origin is Provence and the French Riviera. These dishes include Provence’s bouillabaisse, pieds et pacquets (one you rarely come across these days, made using trotters as the principal ingredient), the Nicoise (taggiasca) olive-starring tapenade, and Piemonte’s bagna cauda, that enthralling “hot bath” of olive oil, anchovies and garlic, sometimes simmered in milk, sometimes with walnut oil. The anchovies and the garlic in a bagna cauda become tender and sink to the bottom, if not entirely dissolved, and the Sterno- or candle-warmed sauce is employed as a communal dip for bread and vegetables, cooked or not. A proper Piedmontese bagna cauda is similar to a proper Provencale aioli, another traditional recipe, this one Nicoise, that makes me very happy.
But my absolute favorite recipe is really an appetizer. It’s called the “anchoiade,” a French word taken from the French word for anchovy, “anchois.” My wife and I lay out an anchoiade as often as we possibly can. It’s simple, fast, easy, tidy and so, so intensely flavorful, and all you do is haul out your blender or food processor and combine anchovy fillets with olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, and Herbes de Provence. You can also try this anchoiade made by venerable Roque company. Variations on anchoiade include the addition in any combination and proportion of almonds, olives, capers, canned tuna, tomato, parsley, bell pepper and often butter, of all things. But ours always seems to be the most Spartan of renditions, where olive oil, garlic and anchovies do the heavy lifting without all those interlopers. Our anchoiade is then slathered atop medallions of baguette and topped with a slice of radish. These colorful little sliders don’t go very far, no matter how many we lay out, but they are so easy to replenish. And as I always say, now’s the time for you to realize how essential, how wonderful a quality anchovy fillet actually is, and how could it have taken this long for you to get over your child-like distaste for this staggeringly delicious little fish.
TELL US: Have you ever tried an anchoiade?