I have never failed to convert an anchovy hater into a devotee after introducing them to salted anchovies. Banish all those little cans of anchovy fillets and buy a can of salted ones—the can is usually round and looks like a lot more anchovies than you need. It isn’t.
Open the can and scrape off the top layer of salt, reserving it to top off the remaining anchovies. Lift out the dozen little fish you are going to use, and brush off the salt. Gently. Take all the other fish out of the can, and put them in a glass mason-type jar or plastic container with a lid. Put all the salt back on top of the fish, cover, and store in the refrigerator (for up to three months) until needed again.
Turn on the cold water faucet, and holding each fish cavity side up and under the water (not too much pressure), slit the cavity open with your thumbnail. Open up the fish along the backbone, which you remove and discard. Wash each fillet (two per fish) under the water, remove and discard the little dorsal fin, and put the fillets on a plate. Repeat until all the fish are cleaned and filleted.
Then, and only then, put the fillets together in a bowl of cold water to soak away some of the saltiness. Leave for ten minutes, then repeat. Drain gently, and lay out on paper towels. Put the fillets in
Leave the fillets in the oil for a few hours, and then use on salads (like Caesar) or with roasted bell peppers, or blend them into butter with fresh tarragon and put on top of a baked potato. Or just put the fish on garlic bread with lots of black pepper and eat as a snack. You will never go near another canned fillet again.
© 2002 Jeremiah Tower. All rights reserved.