Peperoni in Bagna Cauda

(Roasted peppers in hot anchovy sauce)

This antipasto dish is heaven; this is the mother-lode; I have seen people go into a trance over this – even people who would swear they don’t eat anchovies. It’s a peasant dish from the Piemonte in Northern Italy – the same region that gives us Barbaresco and Barolo … and don’t forget to put out some crusty bread for dipping. Ideally, you make this in an earthenware pot and have a warmer on the table so that the bagna cauda stays warm. If you have an old fondue pot from the Seventies, that’ll work. If not, this is a great reason to get one. Cooks disagree as to the ratio of oil to butter. It seems to depend on what village you come from. I think the butter should be subservient to the oil, but present. It adds a nice nuttiness to the sauce.

¾ cup olive oil
3-4 tbsps butter
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
10 anchovies – preferably salt-packed and rinsed – chopped fine
salt (yes, salt – even though you’re already using anchovies)

Working over low heat, melt the butter into the oil. Add garlic and saute – but don’t let it brown. Add anchovies and stir, letting them dissolve into the butter, oil and garlic. Add a good pinch of salt. Keep warm but avoid more cooking.

I like the stove-top method for roasting peppers (I use a mix of red and yellow peppers). Just light all your burners to high and put a whole bell pepper on each. With tongs, keep turning them until they’re black. When each is done, put it into a paper bag. When they’re cool enough to handle,
peel off the charred skins, lose the seeds and the ribs and cut into nice bite-size pieces.

To serve: spear a piece of pepper on your fork (or use fingers), swirl it around in the hot anchovy sauce and put it on a chunk of bread. Then pop the whole garlicky, nutty, oily, buttery beauty into your mouth. Chew slowly and savor.

I like this with a prosecco or Champagne.

- Recipe courtesy of Michael Tucker