What do you do with that last bit of leftover french bread that’s just starting to dry out? And there isn’t enough left for bread pudding or even breadcrumbs? Make some gourmet, restaurant-style croutons for salads, that’s what! 😀
Slice bread and cut into 4ths or so making 1″ cubes.
They are so silly-easy to make it’s laughable! But no one will be laughing when they taste them. 😉
When I was a kid, the croutons, (and of course the dressing!), were the favorite part of the salad! Then restaurants stopped making and serving them, and the store-bought cubes got harder and harder, smaller and smaller, and drier and less buttery! They suddenly became a pain to eat, literally, scraping the roof of our mouths and it felt like those little boulders were going to shatter our teeth! They were almost flavorless, other than gobs of salt, and I stopped enjoying them completely.
I used 1 oz. of french bread and they measured to about 1 1/2 cups.
But whenever I have a small chunk of firm bread leftover, I LOVE to whip up a batch of homemade ones! They are such a tasty treat, that I have to be careful that I don’t eat too many of them before lunch or supper, and actually have enough left for my salad!
Melt your butter and seasonings in an appropriate-sized sauté pan.
I simply start with melted butter, then I melt in – – wait for it – – anchovy paste. Yep! Don’t worry, they won’t end up tasting “fishy”. But the paste adds a depth of richness, and a saltiness that just can’t be beat!
Toss well and sop up all of that delicious herbed butter!
Then it’s just whatever seasonings and herbs you like! Normally I just toss stuff in and don’t measure, and I use a different variety of herbs every time I make them. But this time, I decided it would be nice to share what I do, so I kept track of everything that went into this batch just for you! 😀
Then sprinkle in your asiago cheese and toss.
Normally, I like to add fresh garlic in with the anchovy paste and melted butter, but I had a such a small amount of bread and my garlic cloves were HUGE. I didn’t want the garlic to be overpowering, so I added garlic powder. But you can certainly use fresh if you want. Just be careful not to add TOO much. Unless there’s a nasty infestation of vampires in your area. Then. Load up. 😉
Really sop up all of that butter, too, as it’s very important that you get it all. I just take the cubes and wipe the pan with them, especially the sides that need it most.
Place them all onto a foil-lined baking sheet.
Don’t they look good already?!?!
I like to use a nice, powerful cheese, asiago being my favorite, to really add a punch of flavor without having to try to add too much. Too much cheese won’t stay on anyways. You can also use parmesan or romano if you’d like. Any hard cheese finely grated will work. Then just finely grate it over the croutons, toss, and place them onto a baking sheet!
Bake until golden brown and lightly crispy!
Then you just pop them into a preheated oven and bake them until they’re lightly browned, delicately crispy, and smell like heaven!! I use a foil-lined baking sheet for minimal cleanup! 😉
As they are cooling, I add a second dose of cheese to them! You can use fresh if you’d like, but oddly, the “green can” kind of parmesan cheese also works really well for this! Just toss with the parmesan and you’re done!
I like to store them airtight in the fridge,
then let them come to room temp with the lid off before serving.
You can store these in a ziploc baggie if you’d like, but I enjoy using my canning jars for this and not waste so many plastic bags. I also keep mine stored in the fridge, then I let them come to room temp with the lid off while I make our salads. Don’t worry! They don’t get soggy in the fridge if you keep the moist air from getting to them. And canning jars do just that! 😉
*If your container fails you, and they do happen to get a tiny bit soggy, you can bring them back to crispy by placing them onto a baking sheet and pop them into a preheated 325º oven for a few minutes. Not a biggie. Just watch so that they don’t get OVER-toasted.
So if you’re longing for a nostalgic salad, one like you had as a child at your family’s favorite restaurant on a Saturday night, beautifully garnished with lightly crispy, buttery, flavorful croutons – – what are you waiting for? These are so easy to make and the perfect topping for your salad that makes it ever so special! 😀
*The homemade dressing in the photo is my Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Ranch Salad Dressing (or Dip!) with Asiago.