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Monday, May 11, 2009

Why Must Anchovies Get All The Glory

While reading through Wikipedia looking for an adequate description of bottarga, this is what I get:

"In Italy, it is best-known in Sicilian and Sardinian cuisine; its culinary properties can be compared to those of dry anchovies, though it is much more expensive. Bottarga is often served with lemon juice as an appetizer or used in pasta ishes. In Lebanon it is served sliced, where each slice is covered with a piece of raw garlic and the whole is immersed in olive oil then eaten with flat bread."

Anchovies! Nothing against them - quite possibly the most revolting, accidental comestible on the planet. Alright, maybe I got a little carried away, but I'm sure I would not be the first fine food junkie to beg to differ with that perspective. Now, here's a bit of the skivvy on anchovies. Back around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in the days before refrigerators and the Internet, the only way fishermen could preserve their rather scant catches of fish; chiefly anchovy, sardine and eel, was 'salting'. Bottarga, in the other hand, was much more rare due to its own complex process of preservation.

As exporting their catches was a means of income for the fishermen, preserving all that was caught was imperative, Basically the only way to do this was immediately drench the fish in a vat of salt or brine. Weather permitting, the fish was also spread out in the sun to dry. Bottarga, conversely, though also an export commodity in many Mediterranean sea ports, was acknowledged, even by nobility for its strength enhancing qualities. So, I would say, it had a definite purpose, unlike the common everyday anchovy. Further, the means of processing it required a much more sophisticated procedure.

As opposed to being a salty addition to a Caesar salad or just ruining a perfectly good pizza, bottarga truly encompasses the natural flavor of the sea, for it is never salted. It is indeed hand massaged to perfection. Dare I say more on the subject.

Recently, bottarga is becoming more and more accessible to American pallettes. At this point, the item is fairly expensive, such as is caviar in general, but suppliers are working hard to maintain affordable pricing in order to properly introduce it within American markets.

With that, I rest my case.

Smooth sailing,

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