Thursday, February 25, 2010

Your Salad Will Thank Me: How to Make Homemade Croutons

Back at the tender age of 15, I worked at a local restaurant. It was a small place, owned by a married couple, where the husband was the cook (a fabulous cook, I might add) and the wife managed everything else. I mostly did odd jobs there. Washed dishes sometimes, did food prep other times, all while helping the waitresses with their orders. It was a great job - not only did I make a little extra money, but the owners always fed me an amazing dinner when I worked and let me do my homework when it was slow.

Part of the reason that place's food was so great was that just about everything was made from scratch. I remember looking through the recipe books and mixing up huge batches of salad dressings, scooping butter into what must have been at least fifty little serving dishes, cutting up tons of lettuce for an entire dinner shift's worth of salad, and a myriad of other things.  But one thing in particular that I learned to do while working at this place was how to make homemade croutons.

Making croutons is a ridiculously easy thing to do and it takes hardly any time to make them.  I remember making all the croutons for the shift I was working in less than a half hour.  Seriously, it's that easy.  And best of all - it's a great money-saver. Not only do you save money by making your own (buying a box at the store that can cost anywhere from $2-4), but it's a great way to use up stale or dried out bread.  AND, like I always say, making things yourself is a great way to go because you control what goes into your food. Sure, white bread coated with butter and garlic salt isn't necessarily health food, but it is better than the store-bought kind that contain delicious ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, and MSG.  

So, to make croutons, you need some kind of bread. Obviously. Now, the very best kind for croutons (what I used at the restaurant) was French bread. But you can use any other kind of bread - my mom uses hamburger and hot dog buns that have gone stale.  Cut up the bread into squares - whatever size you want your croutons to be.  Spread them out on a baking sheet, either coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment (or better yet, a Silpat. Seriously, if you bake a lot, you really should invest in one of these. I love mine.).  Next, melt some butter and pour it all over the squares - I used a little over a stick of it.  Ahhhh....butter.  Makes just about anything better, don't you think?

Quick sidenote:  as you're cutting up your bread for the croutons, don't forget to save the crumbs. Great for breading just about anything you could ever want to bread. No sense in buying crumbs at the store when you've got all of these, right?

Next, sprinkle the buttered bread squares with garlic salt and any other seasonings you'd like.  My mom likes the Mrs. Dash Italian Medley; I just used plain ol' generic Italian seasoning.  They taste good even at this step - we all kept snacking on them, as you can see.  But they get even better once they've been toasted in the oven. Oh, I probably should have mentioned this earlier, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the croutons for about 10-15 minutes, checking regularly so they don't burn (been there, done that).  You want them to be crunchy and golden-brown. Once they've cooled, store them in a bag and you're set.  Delicious, homemade croutons for hardly any money.  This batch cost me under $2 to make - and it made a lot.  Plus, did I mention that they taste waaaaay better than the ones at the store? Oh yeah, I did.
 It just so happens that my son loves salad, particularly Caesar salad.  So, I threw together some romaine lettuce, shredded Parmesan cheese, Caesar dressing, and, of course, lots of croutons. And for the record, he ate the entire bowl of it.

1 comment:

Nisha said...

way to eat your salad Max!!

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