“What makes this sauce so tasty?”
“Anchovies,” I replied.
“But I don’t care for anchovies.”
“Do you like Worcestershire Sauce sprinkled on a burger?”
“Don’t tell me…”
“You betcha. Anchovies are the secret weapon in Worcestershire Sauce. You love the taste of those furry little critters; you just don’t know it.”
And so began the dinner conversation after one of my guests tasted my recipe for Salsa Verde. I used it to sauce pork and was concerned that after they discovered the root of the flavor, the tenderloin slices would remained untouched. But they joined the Clean Plate Club, in effect canceling their membership with the Anchovy Despisers Club.
Anchovies aren’t born in a bottle or tin. They come from warm ocean waters and are particularly abundant in the Mediterranean. Mike Monahan, owner of Monahan’s Seafood in Kerrytown, tells me he keeps a list of locals who enjoy them and notifies them of their sporadic availability from California.
The anchovies most folks cook with are the salted and cured ones, found on global grocery shelves or sold dried in markets. Anchovy lends complexity and depth to world cuisine, such as Thai, Chinese and Indian food, not to mention your everyday sport bar’s Caesar salads and pizza.
The chopped anchovy combined with fresh herbs and garlic in the following Salsa Verde recipe yields a small amount of sauce with a huge amount of piquant flavor.
A variety of sauces found throughout the world are known as Green Sauce, and generally served chilled or at room temperature. The Mexicans have their green sauces of cilantro, tomatillas and peppers. In Central and South America, chimichurri is the ubiquitous green sauce generally served as a condiment with beef. In Germany you’ll find herb sauces combined with hard chopped eggs.
The recipe below would be more akin to an Italian/Mediterranean styled green sauce — Salsa Verde. It’s a recipe I adapted from Jamie Oliver, although I fiddled with quantities and omitted the gherkins he used.
With the abundance of fresh herbs to be had in gardens and at the farmers market, Salsa Verde is the perfect summer condiment. I used fresh basil, parsley and tarragon in the recipe below, but chives and mint would be other marvelous additions.
Like fresh herb pestos without the nuts and Parmesan, Salsa Verde is great tossed with vegetables and potatoes, spooned over steak, meat or chicken or used as a base for assorted crostini or a seasoning in fajitas.
This was a great make-ahead dish, served with potatoes, for a casual summer evening dinner party. I didn’t want to juggle pans when my guests had arrived so I did the cooking in advance. I made the Salsa Verde 24 hours in advance; and I seasoned the pork and refrigerated it several hours before grilling.
An hour before guests arrived, I boiled quartered potatoes in salted water until they were just beginning to tenderize but still firm. I drained them, tossed the hot potatoes with olive oil, dry vermouth, chives and additional salt and pepper to taste. I covered the pan and let them soak up the flavors and tenderize in their residual heat to perfection.
I grilled the pork 30 minutes before they arrived, undercooking them slightly, and wrapped them in foil until we were ready to eat. I also recycled the empty jar of anchovies, eliminating all traces of secret weaponry.
Still haven’t convinced you to love, or to at least try, anchovies? Consider this: according to Wikipedia, in Roman times anchovies were eaten as an aphrodisiac. Still no anchovy go? I give up. But the following recipe for Salsa Verde is delicious even if you choose to omit them.