7 Tips for 7-Layer Dip
Chef Matt Lightner loves football, and football fare. You might get 20 courses at his Michelin two-star, New York Times three-star Atera restaurant in New York. But when the Nebraska native is off work and rooting for the Seahawks this Sunday, he’ll be whipping up his signature seven-layer dip.
1. Make it yourself. As Lightner points out, the grocery store is likely “using all the leftover stuff and we’re the fools who go out and buy it…and it’s still delicious! How much more amazing is it gonna be with better product and seasoning?” Control what goes in your dip and wow your guests.
2. Plan for it. “Don’t let it be something you think you’ll just whip together at the last minute, because when the time comes, you’re not gonna make it from scratch,” says Lightner. Seven layers is a lot of layers, so start making those layers, say, Wednesday.
3. Rethink your beans. Instead of canned or refried beans, Lightner suggests you “cook your own beans, put some bacon in it, and let it rest in the refrigerator so they get nice and flavorful.”
4. Strained yogurt trumps sour cream. Cut down on the fat and calories while keeping the bright creaminess. by subbing strained or Greek yogurt for traditional sour cream. Protip: If you’re using regular yogurt, strain the yogurt overnight for a less watery, more creamy-tasting dip.
5. Use good cheese. How about an aged English or Tillamook cheddar? The more flavorful the cheese, the less you need to pack a punch.
6. Up the veggie ratio. Lightner loves lots of fresh vegetables. He sticks with the classics, and plenty of them—iceberg lettuce, red onion, tomatoes, cilantro, lime and jalapeños.
7. Watch out for overeating! “Last Super Bowl, the dip I made was so big that it was cascading over the dish. I thought, there’s no way they’ll finish all of this but it was completely gone.” With a dip this tasty it might be hard to resist. But it’s a long game…so don’t get too full too early.
Chef Matt Lightner’s 7-Layer Dip
15 ounces dry pinto beans (approximately 2 cups), or 4 15-ounce cans cooked pinto beans, drained
1 smoked responsibly raised ham hock (inquire with your local butcher)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound responsibly raised ground turkey
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and diced or smashed
1 roasted chili or pepper (such as Anaheim or Poblano), peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 plum tomatoes, diced
Other vegetables you love (Lightner suggests grilled zucchini), chopped
1 head of fresh cabbage, finely shaved
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 cups strained yogurt, such as Greek yogurt
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (Lightner loves an aged English or Tillamook cheddar)
The first layer and the all-important foundation is the beans: If you're using dried beans: The night before, rinse the beans thoroughly, and pick over to remove any broken or shriveled beans or small stones. Put the beans in a large bowl pot and cover with 2-3 inches of fresh water. The next day, strain the liquid and put the beans in a pot with the ham hock and cover with 2 inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that may rise to the surface. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and cook until the beans are tender, anywhere from 1-2 hours. Once the beans are soft, add salt to taste. Remove from heat, and let the beans cool in their liquid. Once cooled, strain the liquid, discarding the ham hock. Transfer the beans to a small, deep casserole dish and smash the beans.
If you're using canned beans: Drain the beans and rinse them under fresh water. Put the beans in a pot with the ham hock and cover with 1-2 inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that may rise to the surface. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and cook until the beans are tender, approximately 30-60 minutes. You'll know the beans are done when they are tender and creamy on the inside. Once the beans are fully cooked, add salt to taste. Remove from heat, and let the beans cool in their liquid. Once cooled, strain the liquid, discarding the ham hock. Transfer the beans to a small, deep casserole dish and smash the beans.
The second layer is the meat: Add olive oil to a medium sauté pan and heat over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the ground turkey and cook the meat, stirring only occasionally until the turkey is cooked through. Season with salt, cumin, garlic, chili powder, and Mexican oregano to taste. Add this layer to your casserole.
Now for the rest of the layers: At this point, it's up to you what you'll layer next. Lighter recommends, from bottom to top: cilantro, jalapeño, avocado, roasted chilies or peppers, and tomatoes. After the layer of tomato, continue with any additional vegetables that you like. Lightner loves grilled zucchini, but you should feel free to add any of your favorite vegetables.
Next, dress the cabbage with lime juice, lime zest, salt and pepper—that’s your next layer. (If you'd prefer to use lettuce instead of cabbage, choose a hardy lettuce like iceberg or romaine and dress as you would the cabbage.) Next, add a layer of Greek yogurt. Top off your layers with your choice of cheese, and voila.
Serve your seven-layer dip with corn or pita chips (we prefer non-GMO, organic chips) or crudités such as carrot sticks, celery stalks, and endive.
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