Bagna Cauda

Translated as “hot bath,” this specialty of Piedmont, Italy, is often part of the Italian Christmas Eve buffet. Traditionally, slices of cardoon (an edible celery-like member of the artichoke family) are dipped into the sauce, then eaten with a slice of bread held underneath to catch the drippings. It must be served hot, so serve it in a dish that can be placed over a little warmer, or serve it from a small slow cooker.

Makes 1¼ cups.

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed, or 1 head garlic, roasted and squeezed out of the skin
1 2-oz. can oil-packed anchovies, drained
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup heavy cream (optional)

1. Place the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat. When it is warm, add the garlic and anchovies and cook, stirring and ashing the anchovies constantly, until they disintegrate, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and stir until incorporated into the mixture. Season with pepper. Stir in the cream, if desired.

2. Transfer to a heatproof serving bowl or a small slow cooker and serve immediately.

Serve with boiled tiny new potatoes in their jackets, red bell pepper strips, celery sticks, baby carrots or carrot sticks, or blanched cauliflower florets and slices of fennel bulb.

From Party Dips! 50 Zippy, Zesty, Spicy, Savory, Tasty, Tempting Dips (The Harvard Common Press, 2004)