Dip can be a meal, a snack, even a party theme. Dip is a perfect food, and dipping things into dip and then putting them into your mouth is the perfect food delivery system. Dips needn’t be complicated; plain sour cream can be a dip, especially if you eat it with a flavored chip. But there are three ingredients that can turn any dip into the tablescape-stealing focus of your party (even if it is a party of one).
A year or two ago, people lost their dairy-loving minds over Alison Roman’s Labneh Dip With Sizzled Scallions and Chile. As a lover of labneh, the hype around this dip made sense to me; any labneh-based dip is bound to be a hit. But what set Roman’s dip apart was the inclusion of three things: a drizzle of flavorful oil, a smattering or fresh herbs, and crunchy stuff on top. Finish your dip with these ingredients, and yours is guaranteed to be a hit too, even if the underlying dairy base is fairly simplistic (Roman’s was simply a mixture of labneh and lemon juice).
Drizzle your dip with fat
Fat is flavour, but a drizzle of oil is also deeply inviting. “Come, swirl a carrot through me,” it beckons. “Come splash around in my unctuous depths and let me comfort you. Come, live deliciously.”
High-quality olive oil, pistachio oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, and — of course — chilli oil (which also brings the crunchy stuff) are all incredible options. Put your dip in a bowl, use the back of spoon to make a few swirly craters, then drizzle your delicious oil of choice onto your creamy creation and ooh and ah at the seductive beauty of it all.
Add a smattering of fresh herbs
Dips are creamy and rich, which is good, but all that fat can saturate the palate, which may lead to the eating of less dip, which is bad. A handful of chopped fresh herbs will entice your guests (and yourself) into eating more dip by offering your tongue a blast of verdant respite. Parsley and chives are universally pleasing, and cilantro works in most cases, but don’t overlook thyme, chervil, tarragon, lemon balm and/or basil.
Finish with crunchy stuff
You can, in many cases, count on the dipper to bring some sort of textural contrast to the dip eating experience, but not always. Textural contrast is hard to overdo anyway, so you might as well crown your dip with crispy and crunchy things, just to ensure no one suffers from mouth boredom.
Fried garlic (which you can buy a big tub of) is my crunchy thing of choice, but I’m also fond of frazzled or french fried onions or shallots. Toasted nuts are another option. You can also use crunchy seasonings like coarse or flake salt. Use sumac for a more a subtle effect, or be unsubtle and choose a combination of fried alliums, nuts, and seasonings. I bet you can guess which route I usually take. (I have been called many things, but “subtle” is not one of them.)