Welcome to the totally awesome eighties — a decade that brought us an actor in the White House, the first home computers, Ninetendo, designer jeans, and hair so big it required an entire can of hairspray just to keep the mountains of crimped waves in place.
The holiday season during the 1980’s channeled the yuletide spirit 24/7 thanks to the VCR and new holiday movies like “A Christmas Story” (“You’ll shoot your eye out!) and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (who could forget Clark Griswold’s over-the-top holiday light display?) that forever changed the way we think about the holiday season. Different flavored eggnogs and Tex-Mex inspired appetizers (Velveeta with Rotel, anyone?) graced our holiday tables, and visits to Santa at the mall became a childhood rite of passage.
For the kids, Santa had a lot of requests for Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and Micro Machines, while for the home cook, Santa might deliver a food processor or shiny new microwave oven, perfect for heating up any extra crab dip that didn’t fit into the hollowed out bread bowl from the neon-hued party the evening before.
But not all holiday parties in the 1980’s had hot dips. In fact, on the sweeter side, cookie exchange parties were a growing trend. When Yankee published a story in December 1982 about the Wellesley, Massachusetts annual Christmas cookie exchange, we received a terrific response. Interest in the annual exchange was so high a subsequent cookbook was published in 1986, penned by the original article’s author, Yankee Food Editor Susan Mahnke Peery.
But, of course, we’re here to talk about appetizers, not cookies!
While we’ve gone ahead and made the iconic 1980’s “dip in a bread bowl” with crab dip for this week, you could easily swap out the crab with clams or shrimp to switch up which genre of seafood dip you’d like to serve. Another popular variation on the bread bowl dip was spinach and artichoke dip in a hollowed out loaf of pumpernickel, but since this is New England, we’re sticking with the seaside (and dairy) theme.
Cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, butter, crab meat, and dried onion come together in the oven to make one seriously delicious (just don’t think about your diet) crab dip, perfect on toasted rounds of bread of salty butter crackers.
Hollow out a round loaf of bread by neatly cutting a circle in the top like you’re carving a pumpkin. I used the top of a jar of peanut butter to keep my circle even. Once the top is removed, rip out chunks of the bread inside and store them in a zip-top back until it’s time to serve the dip. I like to have more than enough “dipping materials” so I also bought a few olive oil ciabatta breadsticks from my local grocery store and sliced them up to toast and serve with the dip.
After the crab dip had baked for a half hour, I arranged the sliced bread on a baking sheet and popped them into the oven with the dip for the final fifteen minutes.
Out of the oven, the crab dip will be puffed and golden. Mix it together a little bit, then spoon the hot dip into the hollowed out bread bowl. At this point you can also bake the bread bowl with the crab dip in it for another 10 minutes to warm the bread up, but you can also serve it as-is.
I added some festive garnish to the top of the crab dip (diced pimentos and parsley), then arranged the bread bowl crab dip on a platter with the torn bread and crisp ciabatta rounds next to it.
Now, let’s just sit back and wait for Wheel of Fortune to start!