The Thanksgiving Breakfast of Champions

For the last two years, we’ve started out our Thanksgiving Thursday with the same breakfast: hot, cheesy, spinach and artichoke dip, served with tortilla chips, and usually beers to wash it all down.

I’ll be a little sad when we host friends and family for a real Thanksgiving dinner, since guests probably won’t take to such things before 9 am. Actually, knowing me, I’ll probably serve it anyway. At that point, I’ll just plead tradition.

“It’s tradition! You can’t argue with my family’s tradition on Thanksgiving!”

“It’s 8:30 in the morning. Don’t you just have some Cheerios or something?”

“You get spinach dip or nothing. And you can’t have orange juice either. Here’s a Corona. Now go entertain my grandma.”

I’ve made some version of baked spinach and artichoke dip for years, beginning in college, when it was the perfect thing to serve my hungry roommates when we watched college football on Saturdays. I’ve never actually written down a recipe; to date, I’d always kind of mixed some things together, and thrown it in the oven. To be frank, when you mix together spinach with lots of aromatics, cheese, and creamy dairy products, it’s going to taste good no matter the proportions.

The other reason for never writing things down is that spinach dip is surprisingly customizable. You can use different types of cheese, or onions, or even add little extras like bacon.

But, for the sake of getting something down on “paper,” I decided to take some notes this year to provide myself (and you guys) with a baseline.

The recipe I created for Thursday was pretty good, but I would make a few changes. Joe felt like it needed a little more salt (though the salty factor was fine for me, and I have a pretty high tolerance for salt).

The major issue I had was that I thought the dip needed more acidity to cut through all the fat from the cheeses and binders, and the tannin from the spinach. To that end, I wrote in some lemon juice and Tabasco to the recipe below.

Don’t get me wrong. This dip was completely yummy. We almost ate the whole thing while watching a little morning football. If you don’t like the combination of cheeses I used in this version, try your own favorites. As with most recipes, the sky’s the limit!

  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced finely
  • 1/2 large onion (papery outer skins removed), grated on a box grater
  • 4 oz softened cream cheese
  • 6-8 oz pepper jack cheese, grated
  • 2-3 oz monterey jack cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for the top of the dip
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 16-oz bags of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained, with all of the excess water pressed/squeezed out
  • 1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise
  • Leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 14-oz can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and quartered
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flake (optional)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • –kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all of the ingredients (except for the lemon quarters) together until everything is well combined and evenly distributed. As much as you might not want to, taste a bit of the raw dip to check for seasoning. Add more salt as necessary.

Transfer the mixture into a baking dish, spreading out evenly. Sprinkle more parmesan over the top, then bake at 375º for 45 to 60 minutes or until the top is browned and the dip is bubbling.

Serve with tortilla chips, and if you’d like, tomato salsa and sour cream as condiments. If the dip needs a bit more acidity, squeeze a bit of lemon over the top. Surprisingly, it doesn’t make the dip taste like lemon — it just makes all the flavors in the dip more distinctive!

Joe takes the first bite out of the dip. Mmmm.