Extra, extra special + bagna càuda
Celebrate a small crowd.
In the last week, it feels like we’ve received 1000 emails with the subject line: “Hate to break it to you...Thanksgiving is going to look...just a little different this year.” Cool — if we hadn’t gotten those we would have had no idea that this year is completely upside down backwards and we would have accidentally planned a 20 person Thanksgiving celebration. Thank you, Le Creuset marketing emails!!!
So, yeah. Things are different this year, and we might be having a hard time with the new way the holiday season is set to look. We’ve talked about it before, but we’ll say it again: We miss our families who we can’t see for the first time in as long as we can remember, and are wracked with anxiety trying to figure out ways to safely see the ones who live nearby.
But, because we’re lucky enough to be cooking a holiday meal at all (no matter how small), we’re choosing to focus on the things we still have to celebrate. For us this year, that means far fewer dishes, but extra, extra special ones to make up the difference.
When we say “extra, extra special,” what we mean is an appetizer dip that bathes garlic in simmering milk and then adds in two complete jars of anchovies. It’s called Bagna Càuda, and it tastes like what the Italian countryside looks like in movies. (Please see Under the Tuscan Sun for reference.)
The reason we love this dip for a holiday season like this one is that it celebrates a small crowd — even just a single household. It’s the perfect time to splurge on high-quality anchovies and a big fat jar of full fat milk. Maybe you spend a little extra time trimming up some nice crudités and baking (or buying, if you’re us) a nice loaf of bread, because you only have to make three sides instead of six this year. It’s a perfect way to go big while you keep it small.
You can blend it or not — we at Little Fish are split on which texture we like most, so give either a try! You can eat it warm or at room temperature. You can dip veggies, bread, artichokes, or a little spoon. You can eat it solo with some wine or with a small quarantine pod.
We’ll see you after Thanksgiving.
Keep safe, wear a mask, eat stinky fish dip.
Bagna càuda is from the Piemonte region in Northern Italy, and preserved anchovies are a staple in the landlocked region’s cuisine. This dip in particular is made in celebrations throughout the fall season. It’s great with boiled potatoes, endives, radish, artichokes, warm bread, or really anything else that can be dipped. Our version is adapted from this recipe with the non-traditional additions of Calabrian chilies and lemon zest.
By far, these are our favorite anchovies. They have a clean flavor and delicate texture, and have the added bonus of being packed in sunflower oil which doesn’t solidify in the fridge. They taste like MSG, and we love MSG. Luckily, this dip is great with any brand of anchovies, so go nuts. Just know you’ll likely need two jars (the weights on the jars usually include the oil, which you’ll drain out).
1 head (40g) of garlic, peeled and sliced
~30 (100g) oil-packed anchovies, drained
1 cup whole milk
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
~3 (10g) Calabrian chilies, stems and seeds removed, chopped finely
1 lemon, zested
Assorted crudités of your choosing, warm bread
Combine the sliced garlic and milk in a small pan or pot. Bring to a light boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Drain the garlic, discarding the milk, and wipe out your pan with a paper towel.
Return the garlic to the pan, and add the olive oil and the chopped chilies.
Cook over low heat, stirring frequently. You don’t want the garlic to brown at all — just to get soft. You should be able to crush the garlic with your spoon.
Add the drained anchovies and cook, stirring until they’ve dissolved. Add lemon zest.
If you’d like it smooth, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until you reach your desired texture.
Serve warm with things to dip!
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