Thursday, December 11, 2014

Battuto | Evan Funke’s Secret Weapon Is Now Mine!

Every year for Christmas, my sister wraps up a tin of anchovies for me. And while I do like them – a lot – I’m the lone ranger around here. I’ll dress up a salad once in a while or I’ll sneak a couple into a sauce, but I still have a nice tall stack of pretty colored anchovy tins in my pantry.

Then another sister suggested I try making the battuto she’d just read about on Tasting Table. Chef Evan Funke of Bucato in Los Angeles uses anchovies for his battuto, which combines the chile-infused olio santo of southern Italy with the warm garlic and anchovy bagna cauda dip of the north.

Technically, battuto is a flavor base often used in Italian cooking that usually contains some kind of pork fat, onions and garlic.

Funke swapped anchovies for the pork and spiced things up with red chiles. The result is a wonderfully versatile condiment that is – to me – a lot like Worcestershire sauce (which also contains anchovies) that adds just a little extra something that transforms the ho-hum into something special.

Although Funke uses fresh anchovies – what a treat that must be! – in the boonies, only canned anchovies are available. And my pantry needs to be trimmed a little anyhow. Tasting Table recommended using the Cento brand, which I happen to have. (Thank you, Rita.) Rinsing them and soaking in fresh olive oil for an hour improves the canned chovies.

Funke uses his unique battuto in a variety of ways:

  • He makes what he calls “a more genteel version” of  puttanesca by adding two tablespoons of the mixture into two cups of tomato sauce.
  • To make an easy Caesar salad dressing, whisk together three tablespoons of battuto, ¼ cup lemon juice, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, one tablespoon Dijon mustard, and a pinch each of salt and black pepper. –
  • As a marinade for beef, lamb or firm fish, add one tablespoon of red or white wine vinegar or lemon juice to ½ cup battuto, then rub it all over your protein of choice. Let it marinate at room temperature for thirty minutes before cooking.
  • -For antipasti, toss hunks of cheese, olives, or sliced carrots and peppers with a light dressing of battuto, and let them sit for 15 minutes before serving. "It adds a subtle garlicky and salty aspect to anything savory," Funke says.

I’ve been adding this battuto to hamburgers, meatloaf, salad dressings, and spaghetti sauce without a whimper from my unsuspecting Mr. Rosemary.  Just a “This is good.” Enough said.

From Chef Evan Funke,
Bucato, Los Angeles
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 white anchovy filets
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 red jalapeño, seeded*
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste

Combine half the olive oil, anchovies, garlic, jalapeño and red pepper flakes in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth. Add the remaining oil and season (carefully) with salt. Cover and store in refrigerator for up to a week.

* I successfully substituted dry red chiles.