Fresh anchovies are very hard to come by outside of Spain. I tend to save this recipe for trips home in the summer, where it’s easy to find them. If you can get your hands on these small fish (beg your favorite fishmonger or even try a bait shop near a fishing town), this recipe is incredibly simple and worth making. The key is recognizing the freshness of the fish: They should smell clean, like the ocean, and not “fishy.” The skins should be firm and shiny, particularly around the bellies. Even though boquerones—the Spanish name for this pickled preparation of anchovies—hail from Santander in Spain, we Catalans love them, too. We just prefer to call them seitons.
In Catalonia, we eat seitons with nothing but chilled vermouth. You could also serve them with sliced pears and Idiazabal cheese.
- Hold the fish under running water over a medium bowl to catch the discarded bits. Using the dull side of a paring knife, scrape away the scales from the body, working from head to tail. Place your fingers below the gills and snap off the head, pulling out the innards with it. Use a paring knife to slit the belly and rinse out any remaining innards. The fish will naturally begin to butterfly, and you will see a fillet on both sides of the belly. Flatten the fish with your fingers until it is fully butterflied. Lift the tail to pull the backbone away from the flesh, discarding the backbone. Slice or pinch off the top fin and tail of the fish.
- In a medium shallow dish (big enough to hold the fillets in a single layer), combine 1 cup water and the vinegar. Stir in the salt. Layer the filleted anchovies on the bottom of the dish, skin side down. Set aside until the fish flesh turns white, about 1 hour.
- Drizzle a layer of oil over the bottom of a small glass dish just big enough to hold all of the anchovies comfortably. Removing the anchovies from the vinegar mixture one at a time, and allowing the excess liquid to drip off, make a layer of fish in the smaller dish. Drizzle the fish with more oil, then scatter on a pinch each of parsley and garlic. Repeat the layering until all have been used up. Add enough oil to cover the anchovies completely. Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Seitons will keep for up to 1 week; as you use them, be sure the remaining anchovies are covered in oil.
Reprinted from "Catalan Food." Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Olivella. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs by Johnny Autry.