Butter, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and anchovies. These ingredients are robust and significant in their own right, but together, oh together, they make the most divine concoction…a thin, silky, salty sauce that is a staple in our hungry house. I felt it was high time I posted the recipe here, to tempt you into the world of anchovies. It’s a rich and wonderful place.
I first came across this recipe two days after our wedding. We’d taken the Monday after our big day off and were eating brunch at Proud Mary in Collingwood. Side note, take more than two days off after your Wedding. I saw “bagna cauda” listed as an accompaniment to some sort of egg dish, and a quick google identified it to be a buttery, anchovy sauce. “Huh”, I thought… I was just beginning to appreciate anchovies, for the sharp seasoning qualities and even moreso, their omega-3 fatty acid goodness. Having a jar of olive oil-packed anchovies in the cupboard is a terribly convenient way to get in a dose of these valuable healthy fats. I had started adding them to stews (like this wonderful chicken cacciatore dish) and pasta sauces, but I was not in love with them…yet. And so, after spotting that intriguing menu item I consulted my Italian cookery guru, Marcella Hazan for advice.
Into a pan went a pat of butter and a couple of glugs of extra virgin olive oil. Once the butter began to bubble I added two cloves of crushed garlic and decent amount of finely diced anchovy fillets. Simmering away, the garlic browned and the anchovies melted, the smell sending me into a spin. I poured the hot sauce over bright, just-steamed broccoli and took a bite. Then another. And another… praising Marcella Hazan and feeling so very thankful I had made a double quantity.
This sauce is stellar over steamed broccoli and equally as swoon-worthy on a bed of mashed parsnip. We often serve our bagna cauda with one or both of these vegetable preparations alongside a piece of grilled steak. Oh and this sauce is pure heaven poured over a bed of soft polenta (and steamed broccoli, always). A pasta preparation would be a good idea too, as would poached eggs. You could even dress a humble piece of sourdough toast in bagna cauda and call it a day. The options are endless and exciting.
The world of butter, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and anchovies really is a rich and wonderful place.
Broccoli with Bagna Cauda
Loosely adapted from Marcella Hazan’s recipe.
2 large heads of organically grown broccoli, leaves and stem included
45 grams Unsalted Butter
1/3 cup Extra virgin olive oil
2-3 large cloves Garlic, crushed *
8-12 Anchovy Fillets, sliced**
* This depends on how garlicy you like it.
** Again, this depends on how salty you like it. I always add more because YUM. Go for jarred anchovies in olive oil. If you’re not into anchovies and would rather they disappear into the sauce, slice them super finely.
1. Remove the broccoli leaves, slice the stem into 1-2cm chunks and cut your florets (cutting the big ones in half). Set them to steam for a couple of minutes until fork tender. It’s best to under-steam them so they retain both the vibrant green colour and more nutrients.
2. Meanwhile, prepare your sauce by heating the butter and oil in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. When the butter has melted, turn the heat down slightly and add the garlic and anchovies and allow them to cook and sizzle down. Continue to turn the heat down if it’s browning too fast. Be careful not to burn the garlic. You want the anchovies to melt away and the garlic to begin to brown and become fragrant. This will take a few of minutes. When cooked and ready to serve, put the broccoli on your plate and pour the bagna cauda over the top.
3. Serve this on a bed of polenta with a hard-boiled egg (I’d go soft poached egg, pre-pregnancy), or serve it alongside steak and roasted potatoes. Note, if you’re serving it over polenta, don’t hesitate to double the sauce ingredients (at least double the oil and butter), for extra sauce.