Dips: The Party Menu Essential
Posted by CHERIE THOMPSON
Why every party menu needs dip
Dips are the ultimate mingling dish for every table, counter, bar or picnic blanket. What other menu item entices guests to come together, to get closer, share, talk and laugh? We can all use more of that – getting together, celebrating or even just hanging out for the sake of hanging out with friends and family.
Everyone loves dip
Dips permeate menus worldwide, both at home and dining out, for good reason. Hot or cold, sweet or savoury, they are delicious.
A bagna cauda takes simple vegetables into a new universe of flavour. Or, how about hummus, tzatziki, baba ghanoush, pico de gallo, guacamole, romesco, queso, black bean, baked spinach and artichoke...hungry, yet?
But don’t discount the standards – ketchup, mustard, mayo, ranch or BBQ sauce. Sure, they may pale in comparison to the plethora of delectable dips and sauces available; but, a platter of fries with ketchup on the side still becomes an instant party when everyone starts dipping. Make it a platter of fries with a trio of dips to level up on your dip game.
Many parents know and embrace the fact that dips are the key (or even the bribe) to get kids to eat those vegetables.
Dips are easy to prepare
Long gone are the days when adding onion soup mix to sour cream was getting fancy. Unless you are embracing the retro vibe at your table, then go right ahead. Remember, fancy doesn’t necessarily mean complicated or difficult.
Starting with one, or a combination of sour cream and mayonnaise, then adding different combinations of spices, seasonings and sauces your dip can be ready in a couple minutes. Sriracha Mayo (mayo, sriracha, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper) can be made in less than 2 minutes and you can dip almost anything in it.
Layered dips allow a blending of flavours without any blending. By adding or removing easy to tweak ingredients, it's simple to make a dip that suit your guests. Check out our Layered Greek Dip recipe at the bottom of this page.
Baked dips, obviously need the extra step of being baked, but again, the ingredients can be simple and the method uncomplicated to create a dip everyone craves.
Dips are easy to customize
It is rare these days, even in a small group, that there isn’t someone who has a food allergy or food(s) they aren’t eating or stay away from. Dips are a great choice for large groups because with a few types of dips and a variety of dippers those guests can still find something they can eat.
Vegan, vegetarian, nut-free, gluten-free, low salt – it's possible to meet all those guests needs with one platter. Veggies and Dip are the saviour of caterers nationwide. No matter what the meal is or who the guests are, add veggies and dip- we all need more vegetables!
With the wide variety of plant-based ingredients available, even a queso can be dairy-free and still delicious by replacing cheese with nuts, vegan cheese or pumpkin puree and replacing the milk with coconut, almond or soy milk.
Dips are an economical choice
Most dips use simple ingredients that are typically pantry, fridge and freezer staples. That means the convenience of having them on hand and usually lower cost. And, even if you do end up splurging on a specialty ingredient or two, you aren't using large amounts.
The dippers are also typically low cost - bread, tortilla chips, crackers, veggies, etc. But also a great way to use of bits and pieces of part bags or day old bread (turn into crostini) giving it a dip.
Even if you are going out to meet friends at your favourite bar or restaurant and your budget is tight, dips are a great choice. Usually designed to be sharable, get them to join in and enjoy it together. Or why not embrace your inner Oliver Putnam, and have only dips for dinner.
Tips for making and serving dips
• Let dips sit for at least 20 minutes (at the proper temperature, of course) before serving to let the flavours blend. Overnight is even better for cold dips.
• Pick a dish or container slightly larger than the quantity of dip you are making, that way when the first guest dips, it doesn't spill over the sides
• To save time in the oven for baked dips, heat the dips for a few minutes in the microwave - use 50% medium power level
• If you are using cutting boards, paddles or platters to serve, start by adding your dip containers then build the dippers around the dips
• Think about the rainbow when serving your dips and choosing dippers. Remember, not everything on the plate or tray needs to be dipped. A few slices of apple, a pile of cherry tomatoes or even fresh herbs - as long as they are a flavour compliment to your dips and dippers - can take your tray from super to stupendous!
Dip dip hooray!
Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe
Simple ingredients come together in this fan favourite dip. Using a cast iron pan means the dip stays hot to the last bite and you could bake it on the BBQ. Yup, on the BBQ!
Makes 4 servings as an appetizer
¼ lb cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp milk or cream
1 tbsp minced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1/4 lb frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp shredded mozzarella cheese
For Dipping: tortilla chips, sliced baguette or pita chips
Kitchen Equipment & Tools
Cast Iron Skillet
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the cast iron skillet.
2. In a bowl add softened cream cheese, milk, onion and garlic. With a spatula, mix until smooth.
3. Add artichokes, spinach and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Fold into the cream cheese mixture until well blended.
4. Using a spatula, transfer the mixture into prepared cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp shredded cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned.
5. Serve with tortilla chips, sliced baguette or pita chips. Enjoy!
Chef Tips•For a less chunky dip, add all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until desired texture
•Change up the cheese – mozzarella, cheddar, gouda, fontina or use a blend
•Double or triple the recipe if you are feeding a crowd (remember to use a bigger skillet!)
•For dipping, change up to toasted naan bread, multigrain flatbreads or crackers
•Add a little zip to the dip with red pepper flakes, tabasco sauce or your favourite hot sauce
•Using the cast iron pan means this delectable dip can be baked on the BBQ