Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Appetizer Series: Part II - White Trash For All!

I realize as a New Yorker, there is some value in telling my non-NY readers what is currently 'hot' in this temperamental, fashion forward city. Well - one thing that's white hot is - white trash! Just take a look at the most popular items from some of the city's darling restaurants. There's deep fried short ribs at Momofuku Ko, cheese fondue at Blue Ribbon, deviled eggs at The Spotted Pig, and even baked artichoke dip at Freeman's.

Freeman's, in the lower east side, is considered THE restaurant. Not in a '21' kind of way or even a 'Felidia' kind of way - but in the way that every 'artist', be it writer or designer or even model can be found there any given night, looking fabulously low key (in a way that surely took a couple hours' work), ducked into a shadowy corner under some intentionally ironic form of taxidermy or English hunting portrait, sipping a cocktail as though that, in itself, takes work. (I live in the West Village, where fellow neighbors and myself love to joke that the models look positively exhausted from being so beautiful...) Well - it's the same thing here, only it applies to both sexes, no matter how attractive...or unattractive.

Anyway, Freeman's serves amazing food - Meat and Potatoes food for that matter - and people can't get enough of it, including the aforementioned artichoke dip. When I first dined there with friends and watched them scoop it up like it was the last bowl of food on Earth, I had a hard time not laughing. Sure -it is incredibly delicious - but it's artichoke dip! Had none of these people ever set foot in a TGI Friday's?

Either way, the power of the artichoke dip seems to have survived the 70's, 80's and its notorious stint at chain restaurants. And it's further evidence that people love to dip things. I tried for years to have cocktails parties sans dip - only to have someone (i.e. my friend Zach) bring a 7-layer dip that disappears long before anything else.

I've racked my brain as to why people love dips so much and all I can think is it's a primitive psychological thing- as if stabbing a chip into a bowl has replaced the stabbing of an animal or spearing a fish...or maybe it's as simple as dips are people's first 'party' food when they're little which makes them nostalgic and comforting...hell if I know.

Either way I've given up the fight...the jury's rested...the verdict's in - and it's baked artichoke dip.

Ode to Freeman's Baked Artichoke Dip

1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or white wine
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon whole grain dijon mustard
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large clove garlic, or 2 small, minced
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce (or hot sauce if you prefer) - or tad more if desired
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
tiny pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 jar (12 ounce) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons half and half

3 tablespoons Panko crumbs combined with 3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan
1 tablespoon olive oil or melted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid Mixer (or food processor or big bowl and do it by hand), add the cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, dijon, zest, Parmesan cheese and garlic. Mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Add Worcestershire sauce, mozzarella cheese, salt, and black pepper, mix just until combined. Add artichoke hearts and half and half mix again until well combined. Transfer mixture to a well greased 9-inch square glass baking dish. Sprinkle over panko-parmesan topping, then drizzle with olive oil or melted butter. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until bubbly and browned. Let cool for five minutes before serving.

* It should be noted that this dish is perfect for prepping the day before. Just make as instructed, holding off on adding the topping, cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge overnight. Remove a half hour before baking and continue with topping just before putting in the oven. You may need an additional 5-10 minutes of baking time.

Homemade Garlic Crostini

1 narrow loaf French bread, cut into 1/4 inch slices (save yourself time and ask someone at the bakery counter to do this for you)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
sea salt
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Place bread slices on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with oil and season lightly with salt. Bake 10-12 minutes until light golden brown. While still hot, rub the halved garlic cloves over the slices. This will give them a nice, mellow garlic flavor without a garlic 'bite.' Serve piled high next to your glorious dip.

No comments: