Do not be put off by anchovy idea. Even if you are not a fan, you will never “notice” them unless some heavy-handed anchovy fan adds too many. Beside they are “drained, rinsed, and finely chopped” a way to moderate their impact in any recipe.
BAGNA CAUDA Hot Anchovy and Garlic Dip
(adapted from Time-Life, Foods of the World, Cooking of Italy)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-by-1/2-inch strips
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-by-1/2-inch strips
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and cut into 2-by-1/2-inch strips
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into 2-by-1/2-inch strips
4 celery stalks, cut into 2-by-1/2-inch strips
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut about 5 to 6″ long
A small head of romaine, broken into separate leaves
12 cherry tomatoes
¼ pound small, whole, fresh mushrooms
Italian bread sticks
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
8 flat anchovy fillets, drained, rinsed and finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 canned white truffle, finely chopped
Soak the vegetable strips in a bowl of ice cubes and water for an hour to crisp them. Pat dry with paper towels and arrange on a platter with the romaine leaves, tomatoes and mushrooms. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Arrange the bread sticks on a separate plate and set aside.
In a heavy 1-quart enameled or stainless-steel saucepan, bring the cream to a boil and cook it, stirring frequently, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until it has thickened and has reduced to about 1 cup. This process may take much longer; especially if you are doubling or tripling the recipe for a large party.
Choose a 3- or 4-cup enameled or flameproof earthenware casserole that fits over a candle warmer, spirit lamp or electric hot tray. On the stove, melt the butter in the casserole over low heat; do not let it brown. Add the anchovies and garlic, then the reduced cream and truffle, and bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring constantly. Do not let it boil. Serve the Bagna Cauda at once, accompanied by the cold vegetables and the bread sticks.
To eat, pick up a vegetable or bread stick with your fingers and dip it into the hot sauce. If the butter and cream separate as the sauce stands, beat with a wire whisk. (If you are serving this for a crowd, which is a good time to serve it, just leave a whisk on the serving board next to the casserole; guests tend to take care of it.)
You may substitute / add almost any raw vegetable you like for Bagna Cauda: fennel sticks, cauliflower or broccoli flowerets, white turnip wedges, or radishes.
Yield: To serve 6.
This recipe has been kitchen (and guest) tested many times.
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