Like many in America, we’re not eating as much bread as we used to. When The Captain and I were first married in the late ‘90s, a loaf a French bread was a common accompaniment to our weeknight meals. We’re fortunate that we live in the north Bay Area where Model Bakery, Raymond’s Bread, ACME, and other amazing boulangeries are just around the corner or in the next town – therefore, really fresh. However, in the last ten years we’ve taken to buying those delicious loaves only when we have company – or decide to have Shrimp Mosca….
Unless the Captain’s family is over and we serve “Lorna Bread” (garlic bread that ends up blackened in the broiler while we’re distracting Lorna J), we end up with leftovers. (We still devour the Lorna Bread. Hey, people eat blackened fish…) I absolutely hate throwing bread away. Why, you ask, when it’s so easily found? Because a) I love croutons on my salad on occasion and b) when Thanksgiving comes around and I make enough cornbread stuffing to feed an army, one of the flavors/textures I love most is the sourdough mixed in. (I’ll post my Cornbread Stuffing recipe next month.) Bread already cubed and in the freezer saves purchasing and cutting it up all at once, which is tedious and time consuming but not so a little at a time. It only takes a minute or two to cut leftover bread into cubes, throw it in a zipper bag, and toss it in the freezer -- ready and waiting.
The best thing about cubing the bread prior to freezing is that the entire leftover loaf need not be defrosted. You take out only as much you want to use. For instance, last night I had a hankerin’ for some comfort food but knew I needed a salad instead of homemade mac and cheese so I made croutons to scratch the itch. The Captain was working so it was just The Boy and me. I only needed a handful. The chicken was already in the oven when the inspiration hit me so I tossed some cubes in a bowl, drizzled in a bit of melted butter mixed with olive oil, threw in salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence. After mixing the still frozen bread cubes with the butter/olive oil and herbs, I placed them on a small sheet pan and put them in the oven with the chicken for about 15 minutes at 400°F. Oh, so good, especially still warm from the oven. mmmm
Even better, I made just enough that I don’t have leftovers and am, thus, not tempted to continue snacking on them.
A little insight as to why I began cutting the cubes in advance is that when I started with a whole loaf a couple of Thanksgivings ago, not only was that a monotonous task but I’m not a patient person. Therefore, the cubes began as ½ inch and ended up closer to an inch toward the end of the loaf since I bore easily (I’m a Gemini, whadya want?)… those don’t work as well for either croutons or stuffing – unless you want to stuff your mouth. I was ready to give the rest of the project up to crustini for bruschetta or just dump it in the trash and tell my family to forget about stuffing that year. That would not have gone over well.
While not a big fan of her recipes, I do subscribe to the Rachael Ray method of measurement. I eyeball things. If you’re not comfortable with that, I can try to be a little more specific for you but this really isn’t rocket science. It's also hard to give exact measurements when it depends on how much leftover bread you have. A couple slices or two-thirds of loaf is a big difference.
Crouton Recipe, Shmecipe
Cut some crusty bread into ½ inch cubes (fresh, two or three days old, does
NOT have to be sourdough (but old hamburger buns do not work...),
whatever you have)
Melt some butter (use your best judgment. this isn’t a bread float. How much
would you put on that much popcorn? use half of that because…)
Mix with about the same amount of olive oil
Salt (go easy) and pepper
Herbs of your choice (I used dried Herbes de Provence because it was within
arm’s reach). Rosemary, thyme, oregano, tarragon, Herbes de Provence, Italian Seasoning, whatever you have on hand.
Toss all ingredients together and place on a sheet pan in a preheated 400°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Something else to try is thinly slicing garlic and gently simmering it in the butter and/or olive oil for just a couple minutes, not giving it time to brown even a little. Remove the garlic and then drizzle over bread before baking… numnum OH! Or you can cheat a little and use powdered garlic.
Oh, Oh, Oh! Or parmesan cheese (when I was a little thing I used to call it Farmer John cheese. Too funny.) added toward the end just to melt it over the bread and get it a little bubbly… oooh, yeeeah. More like parmesan AND garlic butter/olive oil.
Is it any wonder I need to lose a few pounds? Maybe I should get up from the computer and … fold laundry then walk and do some yoga. Off I go!