This is not a hyperbolic claim. I've made dozens of puttanesca-inspired meals before and they've all been scrumptious - how can you beat fresh tomatoes, capers, and olives? But I am telling you, this one tops them all, hands down, legs in the air. It's true that one of the many reasons I love puttanesca is that the name means "whore" in Italian and I can just stand at my stove stirring away channeling Regina George.
I also love puttanesca because it is DELICIOUS. Briny capers and olives, bright tomatoes, and, in many iterations, the star of Caesar dressings and Worcestershire sauce comes out for a spin: anchovies.
I know, I know, I'm back blabbing about these skeevy-looking little fishies. I am serious - try it. Or try anchovy paste.
But I digress. I turned my little fishies into bagna cauda, which is essentially anchovy butter and it is unbelievable. I melted three anchovy fillets in 2-3 tablespoons of butter, whisking as it started to bubble to truly disperse the anchovy goodness.
I picked up a "demi baguette" at Trader Joe's, sliced it all up, and drenched the top of each piece with a heavy swipe of the bagna cauda.
I popped these into the oven to crisp up. The oven was already on at 350° while I baked the chicken. The chicken's sole purpose was to add protein to the bagna cauda bread situation as well as use up some leftovers. J had made a gorgeous cod dish from the Scarpetta cookbook that had him create a 'tomato paint' - basically a fragrant and garlicky stewed, reduced tomato sauce.
I have the recipe for the paint, which is exceptional and delicious, after the jump at the end of this post. But my plate from that night he made the tomato paint cod was quite gorgeous, n'est-ce pas?
Sorry, the anchovy aromas leave me daydreaming about Italian foods. Back to the task at hand!
The rest of the fantastic puttanesca flavors appeared in the bruschetta topping itself. I sliced some grape tomatoes, halved some pre-pitted kalamatas, and tossed everything together with some whole, drained capers.
Once the chicken was fully cooked and the bagna cauda bread was crispy and golden, everything came out of the oven and I topped off the toast with the puttanesca salad.
The first thing we did after sitting down and clinking drinks was to head for a bruschetta toast. There weren't many words to describe the flavor, but just guttural praises of flavor and expressions of satisfaction. After we each ate one of our original toasts, we went at the chicken. The paint was thick and luscious and added such a bright zing of roasted tomato flavor. I noticed after a few minutes that neither of us had touched our second toasts…. we were just getting the chicken out of the way for the flavor parade.
The half baguette from Trader Joe’s netted 9 slices for bruschetta. Not a single bite remained. I could have put puttanesca “salad” on top of any old slice of toast and it would be perfect on it’s own. But. Oh my gosh - the bagna cauda. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this before. I am honestly so excited to have bagna cauda be my new mystery ingredient for garlic bread and bruschettas - although, if I cook for any of you, you'll know the trick, so zip it.
And if you're interested in the Scarpetta tomato paint, click and carry on!
1/2 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
3 cups canned tomatoes, drained and crushed
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook onion in olive oil over medium heat until it softens and starts to turn brown around the edges. Add garlic and capers and cook for two minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add tomatoes and oregano. Stir well to combine and bring everything to a simmer. Transfer to the oven and cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until reduced and quite thick, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in fennel seeds. Transfer to a food processor, purée until smooth, and season to taste with kosher salt.