When we had dinner a couple of months ago at Mozza for their Tuscan beef night, one of the standouts of the evening had nothing whatsoever to do with cow. The bagna cauda that kicked off the evening was spectacular. It has been haunting me ever since.
Bagna cauda basically translates from the Italian to hot bath in English. From Piedmont, Italy, it is a pungent hot dipping sauce composed of olive oil, butter, garlic, and anchovy. From there it is open to interpretation. I added lemon zest and lemon juice and I'm glad that I did. Raw vegetables are dunked into the bath and furiously gobbled up.
There are plenty of dishes where anchovies are used to great advantage and the recipe will tell you that your guests will never even guess that anchovies are in the dish. This is not one of those. It is all about the anchovies and garlic. And holy smoke, married together in melted butter and olive oil, they make an addictive pair.
I tried to finagle the recipe for Mozza's version out of Chef Chad Colby to no avail, but in the end it really isn't complicated. It requires a bit of mashing and melting. That's all. The lemon zest and juice that I added, gave the dish just a hint of zing and brightness.
You can use almost any kind of vegetable. Celery and cardoons are classic. I went with baby fennel, chiogga beets, celery, baby carrots, cauliflower and radishes. Vegetables never tasted so good!
The bagna cauda was the start of a crazy Cioppino dinner party that we had last weekend. The raw oysters and the Cioppino were divine, but the bagna cauda was hands down my favorite part of the meal.
3 cloves, peeled and chopped
10 imported anchovy fillets, chopped
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt to taste
Using a mortar and pestle mash the garlic and anchovies to a paste.
Place the butter and olive oil in a smallish saucepan. Add the paste and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer for five minutes or so. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt, if needed.
Serve with raw vegetables.
Serves 6 (This was actually plenty for 8 of us, with some left over, but really it depends on the kind of people you hang out with.)