Tuna, salmon, sardines and more

For many, the phrase “canned fish” probably conjures up an unpleasant childhood memory: scoops of greyish pink tuna mixed with too much mayonnaise and oppressive chunks of celery. I happen to love tuna salad (even tuna casserole!), But if my association with canned fish started and ended with tuna sandwiches, I probably wouldn’t be as enthusiastic as I am. for this category of food.

Quarantined at home, we all turn to our pantries and cupboards (who has a pantry? I sure don’t …) Throw in with broccoli, stale bread and rigatoni? For me, the ingredient that usually binds all the other ingredients together is canned fish – usually anchovies, sometimes sardines. He enhances all other flavors by throwing a much needed umami bomb at them. That boring broccoli pasta cooking becomes a savory sensation when topped with anchovy breadcrumbs.

But when I post my designs on social media, many reactions are less than positive. Of course, I have followers who also extol the virtues of canned fish, but they are in the minority. I get DMs asking me how they can make the dish I posted without anchovy. (I usually answer: “With fish sauce!”)

Canned fish, which is full of these coveted omega-3 fatty acids! – is just not very popular in the United States. Even the tuna is drowning. The US Department of Agriculture reported in 2016 that sales of canned tuna had fallen 42% over the previous three decades.

I mean, I get it: fish from a tin can be intensely brackish and slimy. Put one in your mouth and it’s an ocean blast. But that’s also why it’s so good; a little goes such a long way. “Think of the Caesar salad!” I say too often.

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

While the United States may not give canned fish the recognition it deserves, many other countries understand the possibilities that open up when you remove a can. In Spain and Portugal in particular, canned fish – aka conservas – is a way of life. And a luxurious life, on top of that: step into a wine bar and you will meet some varieties of mussels! sardines! octopus! – to associate with your glass. Canned anchovies are a staple of Italian cuisine – think puttanesca, a tomato-based sauce that contains anchovies, olives and capers, or bagna càuda., an anchovy infused dip usually paired with raw or cooked vegetables.

In Spain and Portugal, canned fish – preserves – are a luxurious way of life.Getty Images

And it’s not just Europe: Asia is the mecca of canned seafood. In Japan, you can find miso-marinated mackerel served simply over a bowl of rice or onigiri (rice balls) filled with canned salmon. In China, canned fried dace with salted black beans is an iconic food, and in Korea, gochujang-infused tuna with potatoes is a popular dish.

Korean-American chef David Chang recently featured canned spicy tuna on his Instagram, calling it “outrageously good.” In the caption he wrote: “Canned and canned foods are popular in Europe and Asia, but not so much in America. Hope this will change … canned: mussels, clams, octopus , perilla leaves and even kimchi can all be tasty and preserved. A great way to sample flavors from around the world at times like these. This is one of my favorites. “

I love to eat these salty snacks straight out of the box, but understand that it can be a daunting idea for many. Canned fish never deserves to be masked by other ingredients, but it can be used in a smoother and more subtle way to enhance other flavors.

Melissa Clark's Salmon with Anchovy Garlic Butter

Andrew Scrivani / New York Times

Beyond the aforementioned Caesar salad, you can use anchovies to add flavor to any pasta dish, from something as light and simple as aglio e olio to something as heavy. and complex than the bolognese – just heat some olive oil in a pan and add what I like to think of as the trifecta of taste: minced garlic, minced anchovies and crushed red pepper, then continue with the rest of the recipe. Ditto for the sautéed vegetables. Add these little brackish fish (I like the brands Ortiz and Cento) to your burger mix or steak marinade (for your information, Worcestershire has anchovies), toss them in pesto, chimichurri or butter, or, if you’re feeling daring, place them directly on your toast. I can’t think of a food that wouldn’t benefit from using anchovies (other than dessert – but hey, I’m open to ideas.)

Unlike anchovy, the meatier sardine does not fall apart or disappear from view when cooked. Like canned tuna, salmon, trout and mackerel, it is much more of a main ingredient than a secondary player. Crumble these fish on toast (I like to pair them with creamy ricotta and pickled onions) or in a sandwich (a banh mi, maybe), in pasta, on a salad (like a niçoise) or on cheese. rice for a Japanese-style breakfast.

Tuna and Quinoa Salad, Niçoise Style

Antoine Quintano

My favorite canned sardines come from Roland, Bela (especially the piri-piri version!) and Porthos. Bela and Porthos also make excellent canned mackerel. And when it comes to canned salmon, I have a soft spot for Provisions of Patagonia.

Canned mussels (I like the Ramón Peña brand) are usually preserved in a escabeche sauce with olive oil, paprika vinegar and other spices, which makes them less fishy and more smoky. This makes them perfect for serving simply over crusty bread, over thinly sliced ​​roasted potatoes, or, again, mixed with pasta.

Sardines from many Mediterranean countries are valued not only for their flavor, but also for their colorful collectable tins.AFP via Getty Images

As we all know, canned tuna has many uses worth celebrating – from salads to casseroles – but perhaps its most important use is as a gateway to the wonderful world of canned seafood. While many of us are at home trying to find new ways to add a little excitement to the same meals, consider turning to the humble yet powerful box.

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