20 Dec

That’s UMAMI  –  noun uma·mi \ü-ˈmä-mē\  not you Mommy !



This is going to be a culinary lesson for you  , of haute cuisine , a epicurean journey into the unknown .  



UMAMI can best be described as a savory taste that lingers like the memory of your first love.  (well kind of ….. )

UMAMI, literally translated, means “pleasant taste,”

People taste umami through receptors specific to glutamate .  Glutamate is widely present in savory foods, such as meat broths and fermented products, and commonly added to some foods in the form of monosodium glutamate  (MSG).  Since umami has its own receptors rather than arising out of a combination of the traditionally recognized taste receptors, scientists now consider umami to be a distinct taste.

Beyond the four better known tastes of salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, umami finds its place as the fifth basic taste evoking savory, full-bodied, and meaty flavor sensations.  Until the 20th century, umami was not thoroughly understood in Western societies; however, it has been unknowingly appreciated for years in stocks, broths, aged cheeses, protein-rich foods, tomato products, dried mushrooms, and kelp among others , and certain fish……..

Like ……………


ANCHOVIES    – Yes I snuck this in because if I titled this ANCHOVIES you wouldn’t have read this at all.

But now you are into the article and you just have to read the rest to see how this story ends …. HA  HA   FOOLED YA !


Whoooa !!!  Do not start off by telling me you don’t like anchovies.

First off this isn’t about those salty icky things that totally ruin a good pizza.

Mostly it’s the processing that ruins the anchovy.   Because of their size and oil content they don’t transport well.

Part of the reason you might not like anchovies is because of the wrong   balance in our dishes ,  and the quality of the anchovies most places use.

The Pizza joints for instance use the cheapest ones they can get and the high heat of the ovens concentrate the saltiness .   If you have ever had a good Caesar salad you have tasted the UMAMI and not the anchovy at all.

Have you ever used  Worcestershire   sauce ?     Heck yeah !     Use it on hamburgers  and  steaks ,  in in your Bloody Mary, throw it meat loaf  and sloppy Joes , lots of marinades for beef roasts and pulled pork.    So guess what ?  You have been eating anchovies  ….Hah !

Worcestershire sauce is made from anchovies fermented in vinegar, if that sounds disgusting, we’re just getting started.  After around 18 months (yes, months) the anchovies should hopefully be fermented enough to be little more than a fishy purée. When they have the purée, they then throw in garlic, onions, chilli peppers, salt, sugar and a big ol’ pile of “natural flavorings“.  Didn’t want to freak you out  , just let you know that this little fish is a powerful flavor enhancer and you have already been using it with out knowing .

So let us begin

The Kind you are going to want are the ones packed in oil and usually in a jar.  The ones I get are about $6.00  ( not the $1.79 ones in a can loaded with salt)


Agostino Recca Anchovies Fillet 3oz

On most occasions , anchovies are chopped fine so that they can dissolve and merge their flavor with that of the other  ingredients

Chopped anchovies dissolving   into the cooking juices of a roast divests itself of it’s explicit identity while it contributes to the meats depth of taste and makes it even more meatier.


Never put chopped anchovies into hot oil , they will fry and harden instead of dissolving and their flavor will turn bitter .     Remove the pan from the heat when adding anchovies ,  putting it back on the burner only when , through stirring , the anchovies have begun to break down into a paste..

Do not  use anchovy paste from a tube.    It is harsh and salty and has little of the warm attractive aroma that constitutes the principal reason for using anchovies.


So don’t be afraid of a recipe because it has anchovies in it.

The next time you are at your favorite Italian  deli ,  Buy a jar so you have them on hand when you get that great recipe that calls for them.


Embrace your  new aquatic friend ,


and enjoy your newfound knowledge of UMAMI and Anchovies .








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