This warm dip of anchovies, garlic and olive oil is not for the timid. It is a dish that features a trunkful of garlic. But it conjures romantic images of vineyard workers at the end of a long, cold and cloudy winter day spent trimming vines ina vineyard of Northern Italy. As they warm themselves by the fire of the Bagna Cauda, their stiff hands begin to bend more easily, and they soon find their fingers curling around the first of many glasses of red wine.
In its native Piemonte, that red wine would likely be Barbera, but Bagna Cauda (literally “hot bath”) compliments any medium-bodied red with rustic tendencies. The delivery system for this little bit of heaven includes bread (or breadsticks), vegetables, and very enjoyably (though not traditionally) cubes of beeg, cooked as one would a fondue.
Bagna Cauda Ingredients
½ Cup (plus 2 Tbsp) good olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, grated or minced well
12 Anchovies preserved in salt or oil, drained, backbones removed if not already done (buy the good ones from an Italian or Greek market. Most of what is readily available comes from inferior producers, and it makes a difference!)
½ Cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Assorted Raw vegetables (fennel bulb is traditional, as is broccoli, cauliflower, Belgian endive, sweet peppers and zucchini)
Meat (for the non-traditionalist) such as steak, cut into ½ inch cubes
In a stock pot, warm just enough of the olive oil to coat the anchovies well. Add the anchovies to the warm oil and mash with the back of a spoon until dissolved. Add the remaining oil and garlic and heat over low, stirring, until everything begins to come together. Whisk in the butter and remove the pot from the burner as soon as it is melted. Beat for a few more seconds. Transfer to the table in a flame-proof container (or fondue pot or chafing dish or coffee cup warmer) and keep warm over Sterno or votive candle.
Start dipping. Pour some wine. Enjoy!