I love bagna cauda, the warm Italian garlic-and-anchovy sauce, almost as much as I love my children. And I especially love my husband because he likes to prepare bagna cauda for our dinner parties. If you've never made it, you're in for an hors d'oeuvre revelation -- all you do is warm garlic and anchovies for a few minutes in oil (or butter and oil, depending on which bagna cauda school you belong to) and then serve the toasty warm sauce with a bunch of fresh cut or lightly blanched vegetables. Do you see the beams of light breaking through the clouds yet?
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This past week, a certain food52 member -- brooke's kitchen -- came up with this stunning Caesar dressing based on buttermilk, and this got me wondering what would happen if you combined pungent bagna cauda with a bit of taming buttermilk (and a thyme sprig or two)?
I will tell you: you get a pungent sauce that's a little rounder on the edges and more fragrant -- I won't say it's tangy, and I can't promise creamy, but you will get something subtly different, something you'll want to immediately plunge a blanched green bean or tiny carrot into.
Buttermilk Bagna Cauda
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 anchovy fillets
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch salt, more if needed
2 tablespoons buttermilk
Fresh and lightly blanched vegetables, like asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli, small carrots, etc., at room temperature
1. Drop the garlic and thyme into a small saucepan, add the butter and melt over low heat. Simmer the garlic (pulling the pan off the heat if the butter ever bubbles actively) until it's softened, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the anchovies and mash with a wooden spoon to dissolve them. Stir in the olive oil and let heat through. Season with salt -- taste as you go!
3. Whisk in the buttermilk. Serve with a platter of vegetables.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).