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Simple Cooking - Savory Garlic Croutons

By Anthony Todd in Food on Aug 20, 2009 5:20PM

We really enjoy baguettes here at Chicagoist's test kitchens. Unfortunately, there always seems to be 3-4 inches of dry, stale bread left over after a couple of days. After years of tossing these in the garbage with a sigh, we started experimenting with ways to use them up.

This is a great, simple recipe to use up leftover bread of all types. Once bread has dried out, it lasts quite a while if you keep it in a dry place - just be sure it doesn’t mold. Once you’ve accumulated a few odds and ends, try this technique. They can be used with salads, but to be honest, we usually end up eating them as a snack. We’ve even gotten so addicted that we’ve started buying bread and intentionally letting it get stale. If you have bread that isn’t quite ready yet, cut it up and put it in the oven at about 200 degrees for half an hour.

Croutons.jpg Homemade Croutons

Stale bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Peel the garlic and crush it using the flat of your knife blade. Put the garlic cloves into a bowl (preferably not plastic) with the olive oil and let them steep for 30 minutes. This can be done first, so that you can cut the bread up while the oil is steeping.

Cooking these croutons can make your kitchen a bit smoky, as small bits of bread fall to the bottom of the pan and burn. The croutons themselves are very forgiving - a bit overcooked can actually taste good - but you want to be sure to turn on your hood fan or open the windows, just to avoid any smoke problems.

Once the oil is ready, spoon a generous amount (1/2 cup) into a high-sided, heavy sauté pan. Turn the heat up to high and wait 1-2 minutes, until the oil is quite hot. Then, add the bread cubes. Salt and pepper generously. Using two spatulas or large spoons, toss the bread crumbs in the oil. Continue salting and peppering generously - use much more than you think will be necessary. If the croutons start to burn badly, add more oil to the pan. Cook them 5-6 minutes, or until they are starting to turn dark brown. Then, remove them from the pay and put them on paper towel-lined plates to cool down. They keep for weeks in a sealed container.