As I recall, probably 75 percent of the class raised their hands. Then she told us that even anchovy haters loved the finger food she was about to prepare: Sage and Anchovy Sandwiches. I think she was right; virtually everyone downed these little fritter-like hors d’oeuvres and asked for more.
A few months later, at a dinner party at a friend’s house, I made these for the guests. They didn’t even make it to the serving plate. People stood at the stove to get them right out of the fryer. One person in particular snapped up most of them, but he was guest of honor so I won’t name him here.
This recipe is easy to make and uses a jarred Italian tomato sauce for dipping. If your guests really don’t want anchovies, and you don’t want to fool them, instead of the sage and anchovy use halved hearts of artichoke, packed in water, from the can. Squeeze as much of the liquid from each artichoke heart before you cut it in half. Use the same breading and frying method. These are really good dipped in tomato sauce, too.
Sage and Anchovy ‘Sandwiches’
2 tins anchovy fillets in oil
About 30 fresh sage leaves, washed
1 cup flour
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups finely crushed Saltine cracker meal
Cooking oil (canola) to fill heavy medium saucepan to 3-inch depth
1 jar your favorite Italian tomato sauce, pasta sauce
Open the cans of anchovies and carefully remove the fillets, lightly blotting the oil off on a paper towel and placing anchovies on a plate. Take 1 sage leaf and line it with one anchovy fillet. The fillet doesn’t have to exactly match the length of the leaf, just approximate it. Now, top the anchovy with another leaf of sage and lightly press them together. Put this on another plate and repeat with the rest of the sage leaves and anchovies.
Turn the heat on under the oil and bring it to a temperature of 350 degrees. Put the tomato sauce in another pan and put it over medium-low heat.
Put the flour, eggs and cracker meal each into shallow, wide bowls, such as soup bowls. Dredge each of the anchovy sandwiches in flour and lightly shake off excess. Dip them in the egg, making sure that the leaves on both sides are coated. Then, dip in cracker crumbs and turn to coat each side, pressing lightly into the crumbs to be sure.
When all the sandwiches are breaded, the oil should be hot. (Drop a cracker crumb in the oil; it should sizzle up at the top of the oil). Carefully put each sandwich (you can probably do several at a time) into the hot oil, letting them get lightly browned on both sides, turning if necessary. When they are fried, put them on a plate lined with paper towel. Fry them all. Serve with a dish of the warm tomato sauce on the side.
Makes 6-8 appetizer servings.
Adapted from chef and author Michol Negrin