People love to bury vegetables in cheese. And why wouldn’t they? It makes them taste better, and is the only thing that can turn previously frozen, wet spinach and bland, canned artichokes into a dip that gets veritably inhaled at holiday gatherings. People don’t shove it into their mouths because they love previously-frozen spinach, they shove it into their mouths because they love cheese (and, to a lesser extent, bread or chips).
Hot spinach and artichoke dip is obviously pretty good no matter which spinach or artichoke product you use, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. Instead of spinach, you could use Brussels sprouts, and your dip would be the better for it. Before you yell at me for perverting a classic (something I am wont to do), let me state my (very intelligent) case.
Sprouts are in season
Now is the winter of our Brassica oleracea! You can find tall, healthy stalks of the little cabbages in the grocery store, and they just feel like a holiday food — spinach is a spring leaf, and Brussels sprouts are winter leaves. This isn’t quite science, but it’s pretty close. By replacing your spinach with Brussels, you get a dip that’s in step with the season.
You can brown Brussels sprouts
What’s better: a limp, thawed leaf, or a crunchy, browned, crispy leaf? I think the latter, my friends. Spinach does not get brown or crisp, it only gets wet and small. Brussels sprouts, on the other hand, crisp and brown quite nicely in a little butter (or duck fat), and keep much more of their original volume than spinach, which might as well be called “The Incredible Shrinking Green Thing.”
Instead of thawing spinach and mixing it into cream cheese — which is very mushy — shred your sprouts, brown them in some sort of fat over high-ish heat until the they’re crispy on the edges, then mix them into cream cheese. Your dip with have better flavour and more textural contrast. (Also, Brussels sprouts just have a more interesting, stronger flavour. Sorry, but it’s true!)
It’s an easy sub
The best news is that you do not need an entirely new dip recipe, since it’s simply a matter of using the same amount of sprouts — cup for cup — as you would spinach. In fact, I might even add more Brussels sprouts, because I like those sprouts a lot, and dips are a very forgiving type of recipe. It’s not like a cake or anything that relies on precise ratios.