It’s November in Stockholm.
The leaves are carpeting the ground, the temperatures have plummeted to near-zero overnight, and at 3pm, the sun is on its way to the horizon. It’s dark. When it’s dark and gloomy, what do you do? Well, I don’t know what you do, but I make comfort food. And since I do want to fit into my evening and cocktail dresses, I try to make LCHF comfort food, because that’s the way I don’t ruin my relationship with the mirror!
I hold strongly to the belief that anything worth eating as a starter, is also totally worth eating as a main course in a larger quantity. Now, some starters take better to this than others – making 5781907810 tiny canapes just to have them all for dinner is possibly one of the less-practical variations, though I have been known to buy and bake M&S mini-quiches, or, you know, their vol-au-vents and eat all 12 of them for dinner… *cough*
Things like soup, sticky spareribs, grilled giant prawns, and generally things you can just easily make for 4 and then split between two people, however, work wonderfully well. Such as, for example, this luxurious, delicate, hot and cheesy crab and artichoke bake. Because while I could make it in smaller mini-casseroles, why not just make a whole batch and split it between two large ovenproof bowls? No reason whatsoever!
I’ve written about artichoke dip and its murky origins before, and this need not be repeated here, as this is just a richer and more decadent cousin of the aforementioned dip. Thanks to the addition of cream cheese and bearnaise sauce, it also spreads better if you are into that. Me… I tend to go at it with a fork. Less carbs that way, and more hot, steaming, crab-sweet and cheesy goodness!
Best of all, just like its cousin, it can be made literally in a few minutes of effort (plus baking time, but you don’t need to shovel coal or stock the wood stove for it these days), and from storecupboard (well, and fridge) staples. At least, the things to make it are usually found in my home.
Oh, you want a list? Ok then:
- 1 can of crabmeat (I tend to keep it on hand, and being canned it does keep. I use local supermarket brand ICA, but I remember Tesco, or Princes working jusst fine too. Or if you’ve got some fresh crab, by all means, have at it!)
- 1 can of artichoke hearts in water (again, local supermarket brand, pick the nicest ones you can find, generally)
- 2-3 heaping tablespoons (really heaping) of 10% fat yogurt
- 2 tablespoons (normal) of bearnaise sauce (any variety works, and hollandaise won’t go amiss. Some people even plunk mayo in, but I don’t keep that around the house.)
- 1/2 box (~75g) full-fat cream cheese (like Philadelphia, or any decent brand)
- 1 large pinch chili flakes
- 2-3 large cloves of garlic
- ~1 cup (2.5dl) shredded (fluffy, not packed!) cheese. I use a mix of semi-soft cheese and hard cheese – think fontina, gruyere, provolone, graddost+parmesan, romano, grana padano or gran moravia.
- 1dl more of finely shredded (not packed!) hard cheese (to top)
- 1 tablespoon fresh or frozen herbs (go nuts – parsley, oregano, herbes de provence mix, terragon – whatever you like. It’s optional but it is nice)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce (optional and dependent on your heat tolerance)
- A sprinkling of ground chipotle (totally optional and not for the faint of heart where it comes to capsaicin)
- 1 teaspoon of white wine or lemon juice works well but is also entirely optional. I skip it if I use the vinegar-based hot sauce.
What to do:
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- Open cans of artichokes and crab, and carefully drain both. I squeeze individual artichoke hearts upside-down over the sink to get rid of the liquid inside. Set aside.
- Put garlic, chili and frozen/fresh herbs (if using) into a food processor (I use a tiny mini-chopper) and blitz till garlic is finely minced. Add half (if using mini-chopper) or all artichokes and mix till coarsely chopped (no need to puree them!). If using mini chopper, empty into a mixing bowl and blitz the remaining artichokes too.
- Put the artichoke-garlic mass in a bowl, add the shredded cheeses and the crab, and mix through.
- Add yogurt, cream cheese bearnaise, and the optional hot sauce, lemon juice or wine (if using), and mix again until more or less uniform.
- Fill the ovenproof bowls or an oval baking dish with the thick mass and level the top.
- Sprinkle with chipotle pepper to taste, and top with the finely shredded hard cheese.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes until the mass is hot through, cheese is melted and bubbling, and the top is properly browned.