Maligned and misunderstood, anchovies long have been those stinky little fish that sneak into Caesar salad or top some adventurous person's pizza.
But today, chefs like New Orleans restaurateur and TV chef John Besh have moved anchovies to the top of the food chain, showcasing them as elegant bar snacks, sophisticated bruschetta or the foundation for pasta and stews.
"They make friends and enemies quickly," says Seamus Mullen, chef-owner of Tertulia in New York City. "It's a question of making sure you get the right ones."
Getting the "right" anchovies has become much easier in recent years. The mushy, salty tinned anchovies eaten are still out there. But the shelves of gourmet stores and upscale supermarkets offer high-quality anchovies preserved in olive oil, pickled in vinegar or sometimes even fresh.
Tips to help embrace anchovies:
-- Aim high
"Go for the ones in a jar," Mullen said. "The people producing them are proud of them." Mullen suggests topping a buttered rye cracker with an anchovy and a drizzle of vinegar
-- Stuff it
Stuff zucchini flowers with mozzarella and anchovies, suggested Italian cookbook writer Michele Scicolone. Dip them in a light batter and fry until the cheese melts and the outside is crisp.
-- Get fruit
"Anchovies pair really well with fruit like a nectarines or clementine," said chef-entrepreneur Jose Andres.
Baked Potatoes with Lemon, Anchovy and Burrata
Start to finish: 55 minutes. Servings: 4.
4 medium baking potatoes, such as Russet
2 4-ounce pieces burrata cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
8 marinated white anchovies
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Use a fork to poke the potatoes all over, then place them directly on the rack inside the oven. Bake until they are tender. Using a towel, squeeze open each of the potatoes to create a deep cavity.
Cut the burrata balls in half, using care to lose none of the cream in the center. Place a piece of burrata inside each of the potatoes, followed by a bit of lemon zest, a few anchovies and a sprinkle of pine nuts. Season with salt and black pepper, as desired.
Nutrition: 370 calories; 150 calories from fat (41 percent of total calories); 17 grams fat (8 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 55 milligrams cholesterol; 39 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber; 2 grams sugar; 17 grams protein; 340 milligrams sodium.