06 December 2010

Bagna Cauda and a Winner!

Bagna Cauda means 'hot bath' in Italian. Why are we talking about hot baths? Because we have about 6 inches of snow on the ground here and a hot bath sounds pretty nice right now? Nah, it's because this specialty of Torino is the perfect thing for a cold snowy day.

If you're thinking apres-ski, you're in the right ball park. If you're like me, though, you're probably just thinking instead-of-ski. Heh, I went skiing once. It took me about 5 minutes to tear up my knee. That was my ski career. Whenever I see those amazing athletes barreling downhill, I head to the apres-ski zone toute de suite. Just watching them makes my knee hurt!

But I digress. This 'hot bath' is a surprisingly delicious hot dip for vegetables. When I went to the market last week (before we got snowed in) I found some amazing winter vegetables: baby carrots, fresh beets, parsnips, radishes, fennel, celery root, cauliflower. We're starting to fall in love with these vegetables. We eat them fresh, roasted, pureed, made into soups. They're fresh, they're cheap, they're local. What's not to like?

Yeah, I hear you. Parsnips. Turnips. Those 'nip' veggies. In Scotland, they're called 'neeps', and they're traditionally served with haggis. I have to admit that I've always had a bad impression of the neep twins because of the bad company they keep. Haggis. Ew. I have a theory that there's a tiny misprint in the Bible. You remember the miracle of the loaves and the fishes? I think it's supposed to have been the miracle of the neeps and the haggis. That's the only food I can think of that when you have two you can feed multitudes all they want and still have lots left over. Think about it.

Anyway, I've always been a little leery of parsnips. One day last year, though, I had some pureed potatoes in a restaurant and they had the most incredible flavor. I don't even know how to describe it. It was just...wonderful. When I asked the chef what was in it, he told me it was 'panais'. Hmmm... I had to go to my trusty dictionary to find out that this amazing flavor came from parsnips. I mean, who knew?

So we had all of these lovely veg, and I was trying to think what I wanted to do with them. Then I remembered the Torino specialty bagna cauda. We hadn't tried it when we were there, because it was warm weather, and bagna cauda is a cold weather dish. Here was my chance!

There are, of course, many recipes for this. Every family has its own version of it, with more or less garlic, anchovies, etc. Some add cream. The measures here are approximate—a little more or less of anything won't change this a lot. The really important thing is that it should be served hot. I used one of those little tealight thingies to keep it hot while we were eating it. A fondue pot would do as well if you doubled the recipe.

Let's talk for a minute about the ingredients. Garlic. YESSS! Food of the gods. Anchovies. Ew, you're saying. (I can hear you, you know). You're going to have to trust me on this one—the anchovies do NOT taste fishy, they only add an amazing depth of flavor to this sauce. They contribute umami. YUM.  Milk. Olive oil. Vinegar. That's all! Only five ingredients and a few minutes yield a wonderful dip for fresh veggies. Go on, try it. Remember the parsnips? You'll be glad you did.

What else? Oh yes, the winner. Thanks to, we have a winner in our chocolate giveaway: number 7. The 7th correct entry was Meryl. YAAY! Congratulations! If you'll email me with your postal address I'll get the chocolates off to you as soon as the snow clears. Thanks to everybody who went to Ashley's blog. Isn't it a nice one? (a special wave to my artist buddy Unk-great to see you here!)

Bagna Cauda

6 cloves of garlic
150 ml / 2/3 cups milk
3 anchovy filets
90 ml / 1/3 cups + a little olive oil
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

  • Peel the garlic cloves and put them in a small saucepan with the milk. Cook on medium heat for about 5-6 minutes, until the garlic is soft. It's ok of it boils gently, but don't let it boil over or boil dry.
  • Add the anchovies and liquefy. I use an immersion blender, but you could use in a blender as well.
  • While the liquefier is running, add the olive oil a little at a time. Keep the motor running till the sauce is a little thicker than cream. If you want it thicker, you can add more olive oil.
  • Add the vinegar and blend again.
  • Serve hot as a dip for veggies.

Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don't.

  • You can adjust any of the ingredients to change the balance of flavors toward garlic or anchovy. It's your sauce!
  • A pinch of hot pepper wouldn't be out of place here.
  • If it gets cold, just re-heat it and blitz it again to make it thicker (you're adding air this time).
  • It's also good on crusty bread. Or so I'm told—I'm not eating bread these days.


La Table De Nana said...

Oh that last photo is so crisp!

You tore up your knee? did it heal well? poor you..
Jacques would like this Kate..Thanks..We have heard of all your snow..
I hope you can enjoy it~

Michaela said...

I can imagine this would taste phenomenal on a cold, slightly spicy radish.. yum!

Stella said...

Yum, Kate. I love anchovies-they really do make sauces so salty and delicious. I bet the garlic doesn't hurt anything either;) Yum!
Oh, and congrats to Meryl...!

Fun As We Go said...

Congrats to Meryl! Thanks for checking out my blog and learning more about me :)

Kate, this dip sounds great! I am always in need or new dips to use as appetizers during the many holiday get-togethers. Thanks!

Hungry Dog said...

I like bagna cauda though have never made it myself. Yours looks delightful--nice pictures, Kate! And for the record, I am pro-anchovy!

Kate said...

Love your photos! Warm dips are perfect. I have never made this but I know I will be a hit at my SIL's birthday party!

Barbara said...

I just can't get into parsnips and turnips. I tried roasting them last year, thinking I'd love them once caramelized. But no.
I am loving this bagna cauda recipe. Never have had it but will try it for the family over the holidays.

Rich said...

"That's the only food I can think of that when you have two you can feed multitudes all they want and still have lots left over. Think about it."

Okay, I'm laughing. I didn't wake up this morning thinking I'd hear how parsnips could be tied into a story from the Bible, but it just goes to show, you never know!

A Canadian Foodie said...

Great read and great recipe... really great read. I would love to get your post in my email as I am terrible with feeds and readers. I have missed reading your site. Truly. If you ever get Feedburner or something similar, so I could subscribe to your site, please let me know.

Sean Grey Hanson said...

This will make it more often one of my favorites!

Anonymous said...

What a nice way to get your vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and feel really classy! This is a simple and elegant little dip, Kate! Thanks!

And ... that is one SERIOUSLY big parsnip in your last photo! We like ours julienned and sauteed in butter, black pepper, and a tiny bit of maple sugar and then, tossed with a chop of flat-leaf parsley... kind of a warm salad affair. Bon appetite!

Elpi said...

Nothing sounds better than having a cup of Bagna Cauda in the cold winter.