Sometimes I like to channel MacGyver and craft delicious things out of seemingly inedible products. So the other day when I reached into the fridge and pulled out a half loaf of French bread that had hardened so thoroughly it was now a weapon, I thought, I could use this. And I did, turning the hardened bread into Buttery Breadcrumbs.
For me, the most difficult part was processing the bread into breadcrumbs. I struggled to break the hunk of bread into smaller pieces that fit in the food processor. A screwdriver and mallet came to the rescue, and after my food processor got the workout of its life, I had a bowl of crumbs. I like texture in my crumbs and purposely kept some crumbs chunkier than others. Day-old French bread, the real stuff without preservatives and additives to lengthen its shelf-life, works best, though it does help to cut the bread into slices before it hardens. Crusty artisan bread also works well, even store-bought slices (with added preservatives the bread doesn’t get nearly as hard).
After crumbling the bread, melt butter on low heat with a whole clove of garlic. Wait a couple of minutes for the garlic to infuse the butter (your house will smell wonderful!) and then add a pinch of thyme and the breadcrumbs. Once browned, season with salt, and done. These are Buttery Breadcrumbs, and the amount of butter might seem absurd. You can start with less butter and add more as needed.
Most likely you will not use all the breadcrumbs at once; the breadcrumbs are a textural flavor enhancer, and a sprinkling is all it takes to add flavor. I freeze Buttery Breadcrumbs (and uncooked ones, too) and pull them out whenever I want a hit of buttery crunch on my food. I’ve been judiciously topping food for weeks, and I still have plenty of breadcrumbs left.
Call it resourceful, or cheap, but using what you can from what you’ve got is also rewarding and environmentally conscious. Use Buttery Breadcrumbs as a crunchy topping for soup, such as Seriously, the Best Potato Leek Soup, Ultimate Tomato Basil Soup, or Instant Pot Broccoli Au Gratin Soup. The breadcrumbs add a nice textural element to casseroles and take vegetables to the next level. Try them on Cauliflower Mash Casserole, Cheesy Tomato Soup Pasta, Pan-Fried Cod with Tomatoes, Herb Roasted Tomatoes, and Tomato Provencal 2.0.