Oh, how I love a hot and cheesy dip.
Typically reserved for our football gatherings in the fall and winter, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a cheesy dip designed for the spring. A hot and cheesy dip packed with fresh flavor from all of my favorite spring vegetables? Yes, please.
Now, don’t me wrong: This dip is still creamy, cheesy, and totally dreamy – thanks to the béchamel base it starts with, and plenty of white cheddar and goat cheese. The goat cheese makes for a perfect pairing with spring vegetables like asparagus and artichokes – which make for a perfect pairing with – drumroll, please – wine! Yes, wine. It can be done, and it can be done well.
If you’re not into wine – or, let me rephrase – if you’re into drinking wine but don’t know too much about it, spring veggies like artichokes and asparagus are a no-no when it comes to vino. They contain certain chemicals that can make the wine taste off, or even rancid (especially red wines).
You can imagine the predicament I found myself in here. I was obsessing over two things: a springtime dinner party, and a wine pairing dinner party. But how could a springtime dinner party not pay homage to all of the fabulous vegetables springtime has to offer? I’m not one of those super-fussy people who say X wine must be served with X food, but at the same time, if I’m hosting a wine pairing dinner party, well, then the pairings need to make sense!
Enter Sauvignon Blanc. Yes, my personal favorite variety of white. Purely a coincidence, I swear! After doing a little research, I learned that it just happens to be an appropriate pairing for my precious spring wine-hating vegetables.
And appropriate it was. I served a Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc, because I had found it on sale at Whole Foods and already had a couple of bottles chilled. This is a New Zealand wine from the Marlborough region, which produces my favorite grapes for Sauvignon Blanc. Kim Crawford and Oyster Bay are also great. It’s on the fruity side, but not overly sweet – I would describe it as crisp more than anything. Stick the bottle in the freezer for a 10 or 15 minutes before serving for a taste of heaven on a hot summer day.
The wine worked equally well with the second part of the starter course, a bright and lemony snap pea and arugula salad. I used this recipe as a starting point, also found in my favorite cookbook ever. I doubled everything and threw in a container of baby arugula for another hit of greens. I also crisped the prosciutto in the olive oil first, and then took that prosciutto-infused oil and used it for the dressing.
We all loved this first course, but I must admit – I may have been the only person who truly paid attention to the relationship between the wine and the food.
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Pssst! This post was featured on Bon Appétit (!!!) via their super-cool feature Bloggers Cook BA. Check it!
- 1 small bunch asparagus (about ¾ pound), trimmed and cut into ¾-inch pieces
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 leeks, sliced (white and pale-green parts only)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups grated mild white cheddar (from 1 8-ounce block)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 9-ounce package frozen artichokes, thawed
- 1 cup (1/2 of a 10-ounce package) frozen peas, thawed
- ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
- ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 8 ounces fresh goat cheese, divided
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Blanch asparagus by dropping into a pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into ice bath (this stops the cooking process and allows the asparagus to keep their bright green color).
- Melt butter in a medium to large pot over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, whisking after each addition. Bring to a simmer and whisk occasionally, until mixture thickens. Turn the heat off and stir in the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently fold in remaining vegetables, herbs, lemon zest, and half the goat cheese. Taste for seasoning again.
- Pour mixture into a 1-1/2 quart baking dish and top with remaining goat cheese (just break it off into pieces if it’s not already crumbled). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and bubbling.