The Octave of Christmas, beginning on Christmas Day and continuing until January 1, is unique in the number of consecutive feast days commemorating saints. The Feasts of St. Stephen, St. John the Apostle, and the Holy Innocents are celebrated on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th days of the week after Christmas.
For this season of saints we’re making a warm olive oil fondue because of its heavenly aroma and incensual flavor. To prepare this recipe thinly sliced garlic is bathed in warm olive oil and salt with a hint of the sea and a history that dates back to the Middle Ages. Said to be a favorite of Pope Francis, bagna cauda was first eaten in the field by Piedmontese vineyard workers to ward off the mid-winter cold. Its name when translated means hot sauce in Piedmontese. Today it is enjoyed by everyone including Pope Francis who according to Roberto Alborghetti, author of Eating with Pope Francis / Food in the Life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, reports it to be enjoyed by Pope Francis as a warm dipping sauce for vegetables and bread.
Bagna cauda has been described as a dish of conviviality to be enjoyed as a communal event. Perfect for a rustic holiday cocktail party. Meant to be shared with friends and family, the preparation is easily shared as well. Peeling and slicing the garlic cloves is time-consuming and help will be appreciated. You need to peel each garlic clove, then cut out the germ, which is bitter, then thinly slice the garlic. The quality of the ingredients in this recipe plays a huge role in the taste; so I encourage you to use the best you can find.
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6- 8 cloves garlic peeled and sliced tissue-thin
One 2-ounce can anchovy fillets drained and (and rinsed if packed in salt)
8 T unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Salt pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
2 medium artichokes trimmed and steamed
Assorted raw vegetables cleaned, and cut in bite size pieces: red and green bell peppers, fennel, cauliflower florets, endive, radishes, celery sticks, boiled potatoes
Crusty bread for dipping
Combine the butter and oil in a saucepan and add the garlic. Cook over the lowest heat for 15 minutes until fragrant and soft. Do not let the mixture boil. If the garlic is cooked too fast it can burn easily and taste bitter.
Chop the anchovies and add to the oil. Stir until the anchovies dissolve and have melted into the sauce. Do not let the sauce boil or brown. Whisk in 6 tablespoons of butter, and as soon as it has melted, remove from the heat and whisk again so that everything is creamy.
Taste. It is meant to be pungent. If you want the sauce a little more mellow, whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
Season with salt if needed.
.Keep warm over lowest possible heat and carefully watch.
Prepare raw vegetables and arrange on a platter with the steamed artichokes.
Bagna cauda is traditionally served in a special earthenware pot kept warm by a small heater on which it rests but you can serve the dipping sauce in a small fondue pot, or butter-warmer.
* you can soak the garlic in mild overnight or cook the garlic in milk first, then add the softened
garlic to the oil for a milder version of the sauce