Julie Potter: Homemade bread crumbs elevate any dish
Sometimes, it is the simplest embellishments that make the meal.
There is nothing complicated about bread crumbs, yet seasoned and toasted in a pan they are elevated to a garnish worthy not just of reheated leftover soup, but as the finishing touch for the favorite vegetable on your holiday table. They have the ability to transform and their flexibility and simplicity make them a mainstay in my kitchen.
I first fell in love with bread crumbs after coming across a very simple pasta recipe of garlic, herbs and olive oil that was liberally sprinkled with toasty, salty bits of homemade bread crumbs for both texture and flavor.
They appeal to me in every way — they are savory, crunchy, infinitely variable, easy to make and a great use of leftover bread. Keep a stash of bread heels and the crumbs from the bottom of your bread bags in the freezer and you'll be perpetually ready to whip up a batch whenever needed.
The ingredients here are simple: 1 cup bread crumbs to 2 tablespoons butter. You can probably use a little less butter, but really, why? Olive oil can also be used in place of the butter. Expand or decrease the amounts as your need dictates, keeping the ratio the same, but seeing that these bread crumbs store well in an air-tight container in the fridge, the more the merrier.
Use different breads or a combination of them, as well as various combinations of herbs to compliment whatever you're cooking. Experiment with different sized crumbs and serve with or on just about anything: soup, pasta, casseroles, cooked vegetables, a green salad — the list is endless.
I'm wondering about a cinnamon-sugar version, perfect for ice cream, baked fruit and maybe even the right pie. Hmmm ...
Toasted Buttered Bread Crumbs
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
Seasonings of your choosing
Assemble the flavorings that you want for your bread crumbs — most popular in our house currently are garlic, salt, pepper and my favorite, thyme. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 to 2 cloves minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add 1 cup bread crumbs, a hefty pinch of kosher salt, several grinds of black pepper, and dried thyme and/or any herbs that you might like to incorporate.
Stir well, being sure that all crumbs are coated with the butter. Toast, stirring frequently, until crumbs are evenly browned and crunchy. Remove from heat, sprinkle liberally atop your soon-to-be-lunch or dinner and enjoy.
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