This version of acciughe al verde is heavily sauced, with enough sauce to cloak each anchovy plus extra to mop up with bread. Use a good, preferably Ligurian or similarly “light” olive oil. (No peppery Tuscans, which would dominate the sauce.)
Some Italian delis sell salted anchovies by the piece from 5- or 10-kilo cans. Avoid purchasing fish from opened cans with yellowing and/or nearly dissolved, salt. If you’re an anchovy lover, it’s always worth buying a whole can, which will keep well for months, sealed in a couple of plastic bags for odor control. You can also remove anchovies from the can and repack them in a glass container, alternating layers of fish with layers of coarse (kosher or sea) salt.
This dish should sit for at least 12 hours after assembly to allow the flavors to meld and mellow. It keeps in the refrigerator for days, though the sauce’s intense green may fade.
- Soak the anchovies: Rinse each fish under cool water, gently rubbing it to remove salt. Place the fish in a bowl, add tepid water to cover, and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes to soften. Test by picking up an anchovy by its tail and holding it horizontally-its head should droop down by about 70 degrees. (Be careful not to let the anchovies soak too long or they will be mushy.) Carefully drain the anchovies and lay them on a paper towel.
- Clean and fillet the anchovies: Ready several layers of paper towel near your sink. Turn your kitchen tap on cold, set at low pressure. Take an anchovy and use the pad of your thumb to gently rub away any remaining rough spots and silver from the skin. Turn the anchovy "heads up," hold it under the stream, and let the pressure of the water push the fish open. Keeping it under the stream of water, slide your thumb down the anchovy's belly; the viscera will slide out. At this point use your thumbnail or the tip of a sharp paring knife to cut down the rest of the belly, to the tail. Remove the anchovy from the water and gently tug off the dorsal fin. Turn the fish tail up, gently open it, and lift a fillet from the backbone. (Go slow, or you'll tear the fish.) Rinse the fillet, check it for small bones (easily removed with your fingers), and lay it on the paper towel. Carefully lift the backbone from the other half and debone if necessary. Repeat with the remaining anchovies.
- Mince the garlic cloves and parsley in a food processor or blender, or by hand. (If mincing by hand, transfer the garlic and parsley to a small bowl afterward.)
- Add the crushed red pepper, if using, the olive oil, and 2 teaspoons of the vinegar. Process, blend, or whisk the ingredients to a smooth sauce.
- Taste the bagnet. It should be sharp, but the flavor of vinegar shouldn't dominate. It should also be a bit salty. Add vinegar and salt as needed.
- Arrange 10 of the anchovy fillets side by side, skin down, in a shallow bowl or on a rimmed plate. Spread over one half of the bagnet. Lay over the other fillets (in the direction opposite the first layer), and cover with the rest of the bagnet.
- Cover the anchovies tightly with plastic and store in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. Allow to come to cool room temperature before serving with bread and softened butter.
Robyn Eckhardt is the author of Istanbul and Beyond and co-publishes the award-winning food blog EatingAsia. Follower her on Twitter at @EatingAsia and on Instagram at @IstanbulandBeyond.