Today we’re talking about capers from Pantelleria, tiny but very rich in flavour. But there’s more, we’ll also...
A world heritage dip, bagna cauda
Great, you have enough time to make some arrangements. Take a day off work, call your baby sitter, clear your schedule… do whatever you have to do, but make sure to attend the Bagna Cauda Day from 26th to 28th of November. Let’s fire up the Fujot and let’s look forward to some truffle at the end.
Wait… You don’t know what I’m talking about? Ok, let me explain what the bagna cauda dip is, why it is such an important ritual representing Italy’s traditional cuisine and how to eat it properly. Yes, there are some etiquette rules to follow to eat bagna cauda dip the right way. Let’s start from the beginning.
Bagna cauda: a patented recipe
Bagna cauda (which literally means hot sauce) is a dip made from garlic (a lot of it), anchovies and oil that is usually paired with cooked or raw veggies. It was traditionally an autumn dish which was served to grape pickers to thank them for their hard work.
It was, therefore, originally served with seasonal produce, among which the cardoon from Nizza Monferrato (Cardo gobbo) from the province of Asti, which is harvested from early October and is the only cardoon that can be eaten raw. It is not for nothing that there is a Guild of the Bagna cauda dip and cardoon in Nizza Monferrato. What an incredible duo!
The bagna cauda recipe is sacred and was filed by the Asti Delegation of the Italian Academy of Cuisine by means of an official deed signed by a notary in February 2005. The recipe speaks loud and clear: for 12 people one needs 12 garlic bulbs.
The official recipe also states that for 12 people one also needs 6 glasses of extra virgin olive oil (I’ll tell you which one later) and 600g of Spanish anchovies packed in salt, which have aged for at least one year. You can make the sauce at home by using anchovy filets packed in oil, as long as they are of prime quality, but please don’t tell the Delegation.
Oil. The best one is olive oil from Liguria; if you can, try to get the slightly tingly, newly harvested oil. Pay attention to the temperature. As the name suggests, bagna cauda should be eaten hot. Therefore, the oil should be hot, too, but it should never fry or start smoking.
Ingredients are to be cooked together at very low heat for at least half an hour, constantly stirring. In order to obtain a rounder flavour, you may add some butter at the end. Some people let the garlic boil first or they let it steep in milk prior to cooking it.
These preparation steps to make bagna cauda dip are actually not part of the original recipe, so take them with a grain of salt. The fujot, which is the traditional terracotta pot heated up by a small flame that is placed right underneath, plays a fundamental role in keeping the dip always hot.
I personally do not enjoy making the bagna cauda dip. The process is long and, honestly, quite boring. And, even though it is a delicacy, it stinks up the whole kitchen. Therefore, I suggest just purchasing it.
It is, however, not easy to find a good-quality bagna cauda dip made with the right ingredients. We finally found one and we will never let it go. It is the bagna cauda dip by Inaudi, a mushroom and truffle manufacturer from Cuneo, as well as an expert of Piedmont specialties.
Inaudi, which has been in business since 1929, processes its products by hand and treats ingredients with the highest respect. Their sauce is a prime-quality product that is in no way inferior to the dip that you might find in the best restaurants in Piedmont.
A group ritual
Bagna cauda is much more than a simple dish, it is a group ritual celebrating the pleasures of the table and conviviality. It must be served in the Fujot pot which is placed in the middle of the table, so that everyone can reach it. The veggies that go with it should be arranged on one tray only so that everyone can help themselves.
There are no single portions, formal service, particular plating techniques – the bagna cauda dip is made to be shared in a moment of pure emotion.
If you still don’t believe me, bagna cauda was actually nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage’s intangible good. Other nominated intangible goods are, just to name a few, the Mediterranean diet, falconry, Alpinism, dry stone walling and the Sicilian puppet theatre. Bagna cauda dip should satisfy the following requirements:
- be transmitted from generation to generation;
- be constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment and their history;
- provide the community or group involved with a sense of identity and continuity;
- promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity;
- be compatible with international human rights and sustainable development.
We think that it meets all the criteria!
The bagna cauda etiquette
Bagna cauda is a great, delicious food ideal to share with friends, but there are some things that you should never do when eating it.
It is forbidden to do the so-called palot, that is using the vegetable as a spoon to scoop up more sauce. Vegetables should simply be dipped in the sauce and not be overflowing with it. For the exact same reason, bread should not be dipped, since it would soak in too much sauce.
It is, of course, forbidden to dip veggies that you have already bitten into. Another no-no is putting some sauce on one’s plate and dipping the veggies directly on the plate. The bagna cauda dip is made to be shared and eaten in company.
To end on a good note, we suggest cooking a chicken or quail egg in the bottom of the bagna cauda dip and grating some white truffle on top, which is, by the way, another local specialty. A perfect way to finish off the evening.
What else is there to say? Looking forward to seeing you in Asti on the 26th of November!