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Buttermilk Bagna Cauda

May 28, 2010

Buttermilk Bagna Cauda

- Amanda  

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

Serves 4

  • 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.


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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).

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Mollyh January 23, 2011
Superb. The buttermilk makes it just a little bit nicer to the arteries.
Rhonda35 May 31, 2010
I have never tried bagna cauda - what's wrong with me?! I am going to give it a shot this week - our farmer's market is in full swing for the season. Think I will try the original version and this buttermilk version and see which I prefer.
cupandtable May 29, 2010
yum. have never made bagna cauda. however, i am always trying to dream up new excuses for eating wonderful anchovies, and this suffices very nicely. i like the buttermilk option to mix things up now and then. great idea.
Amanda H. May 31, 2010
You're in for a treat -- classic or with buttermilk, it's just a terrific sauce to have in your repertory, especially if you have a good farmers market nearby.
thelastcourse May 28, 2010
Hmmmmm this bagna cauda with dymnyno's battered beans....what a combo.
Amanda H. May 29, 2010
like the sound of that.
AntoniaJames May 28, 2010
Oh me, oh my. Doesn't this look tasty! ;o)
Amanda H. May 29, 2010
thank you -- and you can add the buttermilk to taste, obviously. Could add quite a bit more if you want the emphasis to be tangy. Also, I should have mentioned that it's not the prettiest sauce! The brutti ma buoni of sauces.
lastnightsdinner May 28, 2010
You've got me craving bagna cauda at 10 am! This sounds like a wonderful spin on the classic - can't wait to give it a try.
Amanda H. May 29, 2010
That was my goal -- enjoy!