Thursday, November 5, 2009

A gift from Sean

My brother-in-law Sean was in Rome, near the Canadian embassy where he was on official business. He stopped into an enoteca (like a fancy Italian deli), where he came across some small bottles of what he thought to be fine balsamic. “But then a very sophisticated Englishman came up to me," says Sean, "and explained that when roasting pork or chicken he adds a few drops of colatura to enrich the meat.” Apparently, this amber-hued liquid has been around since the time of Nero, and you’ll never taste anything quite like it. (Not cheap, this 100ml bottle cost Sean around $20.)

Before I cracked open the bottle I did some research. Turns out Colatura di Alici is an ancient convenience food (thought by most to be what ancient Romans called garum) that adds great anchovy flavour to a dish without having to fillet, rinse and chop the fish. It's the essence of anchovy. (Think of it as Thai fish sauce in killer stilettos with an Italian swagger, maybe even smoking a cigar.)

The colatura Sean bought me comes from a little fishing village called Cetara on the Amalfi Coast. When the fish are caught during summer, the Cetaresi throw them into wooden barrels, alternating layers with handfuls of salt, then pressing the layers down with a lid weighted with rocks. By December, the anchovies have produced a clear fragrant amber juice – anchovy sauce, and a hole is poked in the bottom of the barrel to drain the colatura.

The most common use is make a "salsetta" by mixing a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with a clove or two of crushed garlic and a teaspoon of colatura. Toss this easy instant sauce with spaghetti, swiss chard, mushrooms, rapini or plain old potatoes.


Megan H Carroll said...

That sounds great. Fish sauce is a bit of a theme for me right now, so this a very timely post. Cheers.

Amy said...

I actually just used some in place of Thai fish sauce and it worked like a charm. The beauty here is that you don't have to buy a huge bottle of it a la most Thai brands.

Anonymous said...

Amy...before you tell people to visit might want to read up on Valley Fever. Do a little digging and you may never go back to AZ again. As a Canadian who lived in Phoenix and Tucson and caught "the best kept secret in AZ" they call it...I now carry this little fungus in my lungs and no MD in Canada knows anything about it. If i get sick...they will have to call the specialists in AZ.

Amy said...

Anonymous, I guess you're referring to my onAir story from last month. While I'm sorry you're not feeling well, if travel writers stopped writing about all of the places where people got sick, there would be nowhere left for us to write about.