I am in the midst of a serious love affair with bagna cauda – the Italian brown-buttery umami dipping sauce, traditionally paired with vegetables in a fondue style. It took me too long to discover bagna cauda, but after cleaning out the bowl at a recent dinner party, I’ve made up for lost time. In my research, any roasted vegetable (broccolli, cauliflower, kale, etc.) is an ideal vehicle to escort those flavorful little brown bits to your mouth, but it’s also delicious with eggs or seafood. A combination of butter, olive oil, garlic, and anchovies cooked to perfection – how could you possibly go wrong?
- 2 cups artichoke hearts, halved or quartered
- ~3/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup butter
- 8-10 anchovies
- 3-4 garlic cloves
Preheat the oven to 415 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, and place in the oven while it heats. Thoroughly dry the artichoke hearts, and toss with ~1-2 tablespoons olive oil and a healthy dash of salt. When the oven is hot, spread the artichoke hearts in a single layer on the heated baking sheet. Roast for ~25 minutes until well browned and crisp.
For the bagna cauda, chop the anchovies and garlic until they become a paste. On the stovetop, over low heat, combine 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup olive oil, and the anchovy-garlic mixture. Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Initially, the water from the butter will cook out – popping and bubbling. White milk solids rise, but as they cook, they brown and sink to the bottom of the pan. (These brown bits with the cooked anchovies and garlic are the flavor of this dish.) Note that the low cooking heat is very important to achieving optimal browning and flavor melding… (I have ruined several batches of brown butter from getting too excited…)
Dip the artichokes into the bagna cauda while they are still warm. (Thank me later.)