Something’s fishy

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 7.09.00 PMThere’s a legendary pizza place in Homestead, PA not far from my grandparents’ house (and the houses or former houses of many of my loved ones, including me!). It’s officially called Di Salla’s, but my family affectionately calls it by it’s location, Ravine Street.

I have many memories from my childhood (and adulthood) of my relatives descending upon my grandparents’ house, and Ravine Street becoming the easy solution for dinner. Why Ravine Street pizza specifically? Because it is both delicious and customizable? At Ravine Street, you order by the (small, square) slice. And each piece can have whatever toppings you like. So if you have 20 people with 20 different tastes, you can literally please them all. I remember fondly my grandfather wandering his house with a notebook in hand, tallying the exact number of pepperoni, sausage, cheese, etc. slices to be ordered.

Everyone got exactly what they wanted, including my grandfather. He always added two or three slices with anchovy to list. And my grandmother always got what she wanted too – for those smelly anchovy slices to be packaged in a separate box.

True to his generous nature, my grandfather always offered to share. No one, as far as I can remember, took him up on the offer. A few times I was directly offered a slice: “Do you like anchovies, Leslie? I love them.” I always fervently declined.

The truth is, though, I’ve never had anchovies. As a kid, I just watched everyone else shy away and assumed that I must be like the non-anchovy masses.

All of this came to mind when I was reading the January issue of Bon Appetit:

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It seems my Grandfather was ahead of his times. If only he were alive in 2015. His tastes would have been downright trendy. Perhaps he was right all along. Have I been missing out?

IMG_2406This page, and it’s promise to make me regret my “anchovy-less years” seemed like a challenge. Ordering a piece of pizza with fish on it seemed too aggressive. Maybe I should follow Bon Appetit’s lead and try pasta with anchovy butter first. Surely anchovies mashed into butter was a good place to start.

The ingredient list for the recipe was simple: butter, pasta, broccoli rabe, garlic, and anchovies. Whole Foods had three types of anchovies to choose from: imported Sicilian anchovies for $17, eco-friendly and slightly less “fishy” white anchovies for $3.50, and somewhat generic looking anchovies for $2. I took the Goldilocks approach and passed on the cheap looking tin while avoiding an extravagant expense.

The first step in the recipe was to finely chop the anchovies and mash them with room temperature butter. Right away, I discovered that there is one person in my household who does love anchovies, and he’s not Mark:

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He was a most attentive sous chef. Unsure if anchovies would agree with his tender stomach, I placated him with treats while I pressed on with the recipe. With the anchovy butter prepared and and the pasta boiling, IMG_2411I turned my attention to carefully washing, chopping, and cooking the broccoli rabe. Once it was done, I tossed all of the ingredients together into one pan. Easy.

But how would it taste?

To make sure Mark and I would not starve, I picked up a loaf of semolina bread and some beer. If the anchovies were a flop, there were extra carbs.

I did not anticipate that what we would want more anchovies. The taste of anchovy was almost non-existent. They were almost buried beneath the broccoli rabe and parmesan cheese.

We went from fearing too much fishiness to being disappointed by a lack of flavor. It was good, but it didn’t taste like anchovies at all.

IMG_2413I knew using white anchovies would lessen the fishy taste – but I didn’t think it would change the recipe so much! Luckily, I had not used the entire can. I chopped up what was left and we sprinkled it on top as a garnish. It helped a bit – but we still wanted more.

Given that we were craving more, I’m thinking this means I might like anchovies after all. Or at least I’m ready to take it to the next level with other, more anchovy-forward recipes. And the next time I’m visiting family in Western Pennsylvania, I’m heading right to Ravine Street and ordering the Harry Shope special: three slices of anchovy. In a separate box, please.

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Want to try the recipe for yourself? Visit: Bonappetit.com

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