With “Let’s Get Physical” stuck in my head and buffalo chicken dip clinging on my breath, I pondered the truth that favors have unintended consequences.
When a Facebook friend, Mandy Steinhardt, asked me to help judge a dip contest at her Raleigh workplace, Capstrat, I imagined a few little bowls of various things and people taking a little break from the day. There was nothing small about it. Giant video screens across the office played continuous loops of music videos featuring big hair and shoulder pads because it was declared ’80s day. Dips and the ’80s – I don’t think I need to comment on that confluence.
Steinhardt said her workplace does these company parties for fun a few times a year, and most are fund raisers. People paid a small amount to enter their dips in the competition or to sample them, and the money went to the InterFaith Food Shuttle, which also provided the two other judges.
So, I thought, how many dips could there be? Twenty one.
Yes, 21 bowls of salsas, onion dips, cheese dips, artichoke dips, spinach dips and black bean dips. A chocolate-chip batter dip with apple instead of chips. The sole guacamole entry, which was not green. And something called a Dunkaroo Dip that offered Teddy Graham cookies to scoop something that tasted like cake batter. My two fellow judges adored it because it reminded them of their childhoods eating something actually called Dunkaroos, a packaged snack that consists of cookies and a small tub of frosting. (Think dessert Lunchables.) They ate my sample after finishing theirs.
Interestingly, each of the 21 dips was a little different. Few had duplicate flavors, and those didn’t take the same approaches. I’d like to offer some hints for better dips: If you’re using cooked spinach, squeeze all the water possible out of it or you’ll get a soggy, flavorless dip; fresh makes a difference, so chop fresh tomatoes for salsa instead of opening a can; and make sure the chip selected enhances the dip and won’t crumble.
We selected winners in hot dips and cold dips, and a most creative. From those three, we picked one best-in-show winner to receive a highly shiny trophy. Our picks were Claire Hovis’ buffalo chicken dip for hot dips, Amy Cozart’s creamy jalapeno dip for cold dips, and that Dunkaroo Dip by Alexandra Abramoski for most creative. The shiny trophy went to Cozart, who also received a signed copy of my book, “Buttermilk: A Savor the South Cookbook.”
She offered to share her recipe for the dip, which isn’t as hot as you’d think from the name – it has a pleasant little burn. It’s a great dip, but I’d also consider taking it away from the chips and drizzling it on grilled chicken or fish.
Amy’s Creamy Jalapeno Dip
2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons milk
Juice of 1 lime
1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
1 (1-ounce) package ranch-style salad dressing mix
Put the jalapenos, cilantro, garlic, milk and lime juice in a blender. Blend until the mixture has a pesto-like consistency. Add the sour cream and dressing mix. Blend until all the ingredients are incorporated. Chill before serving as a dip with tortilla chips, or taco topping.