Dip it, dip it, get yourself a chip and dip it

one tray of samples in the dip contest

one tray of samples in the dip contest

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.

amy's creamy jalapeno dip

amy’s creamy jalapeno dip

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.

Greetings from the asylum

If it’s March Madness, then I’m planning to feed the inmates well. When the ACC Tournament starts tomorrow, the odd sausage ball will be thrown here, the occasional adult beverage will be consumed there. But the occasion just screams for dip.

A friend, who is as nutty as I am, hosted a lunch-game viewing a couple of years ago. In an excess of patriotism, she tried to create a Carolina Blue onion dip. It was….um…interesting. It tasted like the usual onion dip, but it’s amazing how the color changes one’s perception of one’s food.

I like a good onion dip, and I’ve been trying to avoid the guilty salt-lick pleasure of the onion soup variety. I came up with this recipe for my new book, “Buttermilk: A Savor the South Cookbook,” published by the University of North Carolina Press. Just keep away the food coloring.

Roasted Sweet Onion and Garlic Dip

1 sweet onion, such as Vidalia

1 head garlic

Olive oil

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons sour cream

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground mustard

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lay out 2 doubled pieces of aluminum foil. Place the onion in one piece and the garlic in the other and drizzle both with a little olive oil. Wrap each one tightly, place them on a baking sheet, and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The onion may take slightly longer to roast than the garlic. Remove each from the foil and let cool to room temperature or wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Remove the outer skin from the roasted onion and place the onion in a blender. Press the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and add them to the blender. Add the dill, thyme, buttermilk, sour cream, salt, pepper and ground mustard. Puree until smooth. Cover and refrigerate.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.