Bestill your racing hearts, folks. I'm really going to do it. Today, I'm going to teach you my secret recipe that I've perfected over the years. It is a nice balance between throwing together pre-made stuff and making it full-on from scratch. People who know me go crazy over this dip, especially my husband. But, it is really cheesy and I don't want his heart to explode, so I only mix up a batch a few times a year. It's better than anything you've ever gotten at a restaurant, grocery store, or deli. Fair warning, though--it's going to take a while, so settle in, strap on, and get ready for one hell of a ride.
Mise en place
Gather your food processor, a large mixing bowl, a paring knife, a mesh strainer, cheesecloth, a rubber spatula, a tablespoon, a way to roast garlic, and a shallow glass dish or two. You'll probably want to spray your pans with food release. Bakers Secret? Pam? I'd prefer that you spray it with olive oil, though.
If you don't have a food processor, then use a mini-chopper. No? Fuck...grab a big-ass chef's knife and a cutting board. It's going to suck that way, though, so don't say I didn't warn you.
Quality is of the utmost importance. If you use shitty food, you'll end up with shitty food. Use the best that you can find and you'll have a better end product.
- 4 oz Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
- one bulb of garlic
- a drizzle of olive oil
- one 10-oz package of organic chopped frozen spinach, thawed
- one 14-oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts
- one 12 or 15-oz jar of alfredo sauce
- one cup freshly shredded smoked mozzarella
- 3 oz herbed feta cheese
- 1/2 cup shaved or shredded parmesan, not powdered
- garlic powder (optional)
Look, it's not like I'm going to show up at your house and smack you around if you use pre-shredded Kraft mozzarella, but shit, I'd want to. I'm telling you, I've made this recipe dozens of times with various brands of ingredients. Buy top-shelf shit and you will not regret it.
How to make it
Before you even pull out your equipment and other ingredients, pull out that cream cheese so that it will soften. Then you can pull out everything else.
First, we're going to fuck with the garlic. Peel the bulb just a bit without pulling off or fully exposing any of the cloves. We just don't want lots of excess dry skin that will soak up the oil. Chop off the very top so that some of the tips are removed and the inside exposed. Dribble a little olive oil over it and roast it in an oven set at 350. Don't have a garlic roaster? Wrap it up in some parchment paper and tie it with some string like a sachet. You'll probably just wrap it in foil, won't you? Yeah, well...you shouldn't. Just saying.
When you're kitchen smells awesome, it's ready. It might be as little as 20 minutes or as long as 50 minutes, depending on how big your garlic is and what you're cooking it inside of. Pull it out and poke it with a fork. Soft and mushy? Awesome. Let it cool. Try really hard not to eat it. Maybe you should make two. I usually make a whole bunch at once and use them in various dishes. It's good in potatoes, sauces, or even just smeared on some fresh pita bread.
While the garlic is roasting and the cream cheese is warming up, strain your spinach. If you don't want to gunk-up your strainer, line it with cheesecloth. Let it strain for a while. This is easier if you just hang the strainer over a bowl.
Next step is to start straining the artichokes. If you cheaped-out and got plain old boring artichoke hearts, they're probably packed in brine and they're easy to strain--just hold the lid over the top, leaving a small crack, and pour out the liquid. But, if you got the awesome MARINATED artichoke hearts, they're probably in oil. That's going to take a bit longer to strain. You can do cheesecloth in a mesh strainer again, or just use a colander.
When the artichokes are strained, chop them. Of course, the easiest way is the food processor. Just dump them all in and run it until there aren't any large pieces anymore. If you add the garlic now, that works pretty well. To get the garlic out of its peel, just dig it out with a fork. Ths oil should have lubed it up nicely and made it easy to slip out. Make sure you tear open any cloves that weren't exposed to dig out their yummy insides, too.
After the artichokes and garlic are chopped and mixed, I remove it from the food processor and scrape it into a large mixing bowl. I find that it is easiest to incorporate the cream cheese with a sturdy rubber spatula by smashing it against the sides and working it into the chopped artichokes. Once the cream cheese is mixed in and you don't see any chunks of it, it's time to add the spinach. Go ahead and give it one last squeeze to rid it of water before you dump it in. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
Smell your dip. Does it need more garlic? Add garlic powder to taste. If you don't want to taste it yet, you can't wait until the end.
Now, the cheese...Dump in all of the shredded mozzarella, half of the parmesan, and all of the feta. If your feta is big chunks, break it up into smaller pieces. Mix it all together. Next, add your favorite alfredo sauce. If you're a fucking rockstar in the kitchen and make your own, add just under two cups of it. Otherwise, add one normal-sized jar. Mix it in.
I bet you're telling me to fuck off again, aren't you? Yeah...I get that a lot. It's ok. I'm going to tell you exactly why you can't just dump everything together all at once.
- NO ONE WANTS A WHOLE CHUNK OF CREAM CHEESE ON THEIR CHIP
- NO ONE WANTS A BIG GOB OF MOZZARELLA
- NO ONE WANTS A WET SLOP OF UNMIXED SPINACH
- NO ONE WANTS A DIP THAT IS NOT WELL MIXED
If you don't mix it in stages, there WILL be clumps in your dip. It only takes a few minutes longer, so just mix it right.
Pour it into your prepared dish(es) and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. I like to use either one 13x9 glass dish or two 8x8 dishes. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until dip is bubbly all over and the top edges have started to brown. If you aren't going to be cooking it right away, cover it and refrigerate it for up to three days before baking. If it's cold when it goes in the oven, it will take about twice as long to cook. But as long as your oven is preheated, glass dishes are freaking awesome.
It also freezes well, but I use Ziploc bags for that. I usually make a double batch and freeze two-thirds of it since it's just me and my husband. We'll eat it as a side for dinner one night, then I'll use the leftovers to make a pizza the next day. I think that might be my honey's favorite way to eat the dip. But, it just so damned good with the fresh pita bread they make at a bakery down the street from us. To thaw the frozen bags, I just leave them in the fridge for a day before putting it in one of my Pyrex dishes.
***On a side note/personal note, there are no pictures this week because my Dropbox is full. I don't have time to sort through and delete old pics and memes because we recently got LESS THAN THREE WEEKS NOTICE from immigration that I have to be there for my husband's interview. Oh, and we also have to gather all of the evidence of our marriage that we've already sent in over the last 3 and a half years, plus a bunch of other shit we've never had to provide before. Since we both work the equivalent of two full-time jobs, this has been stressful and difficult considering we'd spent months gathering evidence for all of his previous applications. It's a ton of paperwork, money, and stress, but damn it...he's worth it.