Served bubbling hot from the broiler in chain restaurants’ appetizer platters across the country, this creamy, cheesy dip is studded with chunks of artichokes and earthy spinach.
ELEMENT OF DISTRESS
It doesn’t take much for spinach and artichoke dip to take a sharp turn for the greasy, pasty, and bland. After a few minutes in the bowl, it congeals and separates into something to which you don’t want to subject a crisp tortilla chip.
PLAN OF ATTACK
We’d resurrect this forgotten favorite and make it the star of any appetizer platter, with an ooey gooey texture and fresh spinach and artichoke flavor.
Most recipes call for folding frozen spinach, artichokes, and seasonings into a mixture of softened cream cheese (thinned with mayonnaise or sour cream). They may look promising going into the oven, but they come out oily and tasteless. Our first attempts were reminiscent of the worst cases of rubbery restaurant versions—until we turned a corner by replacing the dairy with a flour-thickened Parmesan and cream sauce. The flour stabilized the dip so the cheese didn’t separate, and nutty Parmesan gave the dish an automatic flavor boost.
Sautéed fresh spinach had an unappealing, slimy texture, but frozen chopped spinach was a better (and easier) option, provided it was squeezed dry to prevent a watery dip. Fresh artichokes were out of the question—too much work for a simple appetizer dish—so we went on a Goldilocks search with prepared versions. We tested canned (too tinny), bottled (too briny), and frozen artichoke hearts (perfect!). To help develop their flavor, we browned them in a little butter before building the sauce.
Forget the chain restaurants. Next time we want spinach and artichoke dip, we’ll make it ourselves.