Bagna cauda - literally "hot bath" - is a Piedmontese dish similar to fondue. Traditionally served in late autumn and winter with fresh vegetables and an occasional loaf of sourdough bread, bagna cauda is a deeply satisfying appetizer or light supper. Not for the faint of palate, bagna cauda is a strongly flavored and deliciously robust dish. Salty anchovies combine with pungent garlic in a swirling bath of unrefined olive oil and clarified butter.
For those following a dairy-free or primal diet, bagna cauda presents an excellent, nourishing dish in and of itself without any protracted or contrived substitutions. Cardoons (a vegetable related to the artichoke), artichokes, celery, red peppers and onions are traditionally served alongside bagna cauda. This elegantly simple pairing does much more than satisfy the tastebuds, indeed the high fat content of bagna cauda enables diners to better absorb the nutrients present in the vegetables - particularly beta carotene.
Bagna cauda, with its combination of omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fat, is highly anti-inflammatory and represents an excellent source of fat soluble vitamins - particularly vitamins K, E and A (learn more about the importance of fat soluble vitamins). The anchovies also contribute trace minerals like selenium, manganese and calcium. The ghee included in this recipe, provided it's from grass-fed cows, adds the power of CLA in all its cancer-fighting glory to the final dish (learn more about CLA: The Good Transfat).
- Heat the ghee in a pan – preferably the pan in which you plan to serve the bagna cauda. Traditionalists use a clay pot; however, a fondue pot works nicely as well and any pot will due.
- When the ghee has melted, add the minced garlic and chopped anchovy filets.
- Continuously whisk the garlic and anchovy into the melted ghee over medium-low heat until the anchovies dissolve into a paste-like consistency and the garlic becomes slightly tender.
- Pour in the unrefined extra virgin olive oil and stir.
- Serve with fresh vegetables. The anchovies and garlic will settle to the bottom of the dish, so stir the bagna cauda as you serve it.