It’s bowl game season! The Big Game is only a little over a week away!
Confession: I could give a crap. I’m not a football gal (too long and tedious to me – I can’t get into all of the starts and stops). If my hometown Lions made it all the way, I would be ecstatic for my family, who have stood by them for decades, through all the disappointments, mediocrity, and downright atrociousness. But since they made it nowhere near the Big Game this year, I don’t have a ton of interest in it. I’ll be rooting for Denver, because I have family out there who roots for the Broncos (Hi, Aunt Ria!).
The only reason I do care a little that the Big Game is coming up (I keep saying “Big Game” because I think none of us is really supposed to say “Super Bowl,” right? I find that utterly ridiculous.) is for game-time snacks! I love game-time snacks! And this dip is everything you want in a game-time snack: rich and cheesy and spicy and fatty and probably not all that good for you.
It’s redeeming quality is that it does contain great northern beans (fiber!), so there is that. And those of us who live in the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere, do we really need an excuse to eat something rich and fattening right now? It’s the dead of winter, and cheesy-fatty goodness is a bright spot in my world. Though seriously, I’m going to have to have my next recipe be a salad or something, because I’ve consumed way, way too much comfort food over the past week and a half – pizza and burgers and meatloaf and mac and cheese and Mexican food and this dip . . .. It’s been delicious, but I think it’s time to veer back toward a more plant-based and less saturated-fat-drenched diet . . . maybe.
Maybe I’ll wait until after the Big Game to make any radical changes.
-3/4 cup dried white beans, such as great northern beans (which I used) or cannellini beans; or about 2 1/4 cups canned beans
-1 lb. Italian sausage, removed from casing (I used spicy Italian sausage)
-2 tbs. grapeseed or other high-smoke-point cooking oil
-1 cup shredded mozzarella
-1 tbs. minced garlic (about three cloves’ worth)
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. water
-1 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. black pepper
-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
If you are using dried beans, you will need to plan ahead and put them in a bowl with several inches of water covering them and let them soak for at least eight hours. Then drain and rinse the beans and add them to a pot of boiling water. Cook at a gently rolling simmer until soft, about 60 to 90 minutes. Drain water and let cool.
Take the Italian sausage removed from its casing and add it to a large skillet with the grapeseed oil. Break it up into smaller pieces (a wooden spoon helps with this), then cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to ensure it browns evenly. Cook until you see no pink, about five to seven minutes. Drain the fat from the meat and let cool. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Once the beans and the sausage are cooked and sufficiently cooled, add them to a food processor with the cheese, garlic, olive oil, water, and spices. Pulse a few times to break up the beans and larger sausage chunks and make it easier to blend, then blend on high until the dip seems well-mixed but not overly processed (to ensure there are still some substantial sausage chunks left intact, unless you don’t prefer that); this should take less than a minute.
Spoon the dip evenly into an eight-by-eight-inch baking dish and cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until it’s warmed through and the top is browned. Serve with tortilla chips.