One of the first things I ever cooked that made me feel like I could cook (well, besides dishes containing canned veggies and creamed soups, that is!) was homemade croutons. When we were first married and I was still finding my culinary voice (i.e. cooking not-so-great food on a not-so-great budget in a really-quite-awful basement apartment kitchen), chicken caesar salad with homemade croutons was one of our go-to “gourmet” meals. Okay, not so gourmet, but it felt gourmet and gave my cooking confidence level a much needed boost!
Last night I made homemade croutons for a simple caesar side salad. It’s been a while since I’ve made croutons and cooking them transported me back in time to that tiny basement kitchen. It also reminded me how delicious homemade croutons are, all crispy and flavorful on the outside, soft and yummy on the inside. There’s nothing better. And it’s a great way to use up stale, leftover bread. Without further ado, here is how I make croutons. Feel free to share your own crouton-cooking tips if you have them!
From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
- Leftover french/italian/country/whatever bread or baguette (stale is fine!), cut into bitesized cube-ish pieces (no need to be precise, unless you like precise-looking croutons)
- Olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Dried or chopped herbs of your choice (optional)
Heat up a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Pour in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and let it heat up (you can use butter or canola oil if you don’t have olive oil on hand). Evenly salt and pepper the pan and oil, then evenly spread your bread pieces in the pan and toss with a spatula (I just dump the bread in and quickly toss it all around to evenly distribute the oil and seasoning – you may need to drizzle a little more olive oil over the top of the croutons if it doesn’t seem like you have quite enough). Sprinkle with herbs of your choice (oregano, basil, rosemary, whatever…last night we didn’t use any herbs and they were still fabulous).
After tossing them a bit, let the croutons sit over the heat for about a minute at a time, tossing in between. Cook until they start to get browned and crispy on the outside, but not burned.
I usually make croutons on the stovetop, as opposed to the oven. It feels easier to me, although it’s probably about the same (minimal) effort. If you want to cook them in the oven, just toss the bread pieces in a large bowl with the oil and seasoning, spread into 1 layer on a cookie sheet and bake at around 400 degrees until they look done, flipping once or twice during cooking.