Feb 02 2012
Or, alternatively titled, “Oh shit, I let the expensive artisan bread get kinda hard and stale. Now what?”
Because that’s exactly how this meal came to be. I bought a nice loaf of rosemary-olive oil bread to be cubed for a fun cheese fondue dinner. That night, I worked until 8 pm and just really, REALLY didn’t feel like going through the trouble of preparing all the components of fondue. I think we ended up having Chick-fil-a. The next night, we had plans with friends and by the next night, that nice loaf of bread was pretty hard–fondue night would have resembled eating cheese-covered rocks.
So, do I throw it out and chalk it up as a loss?
No, I saw through the thing and make croutons!
These are dense, hard croutons, not the light crispy kind you want for a caesar salad. Instead, they would go perfectly in a brothy soup. I thought about a tomato bisque but I could bring myself to make tomato soup with pathetic January tomatoes–blech. So, I went cruisin’ through William-Sonoma’s Soup cookbook and found just the thing–Garlic Stracciatella, broth-based with the addition of winter-friendly spinach and carrots and full of rich garlic flavor that would be an awesome complement to the rosemary flavors already baked into the bread.
The croutons take just a few minutes to make. I experimented with dipping the cubes in melted butter, brushing them with melted butter and drizzling them with olive oil and they came out pretty much the same so do whatever is easiest for you. They come out hard and crunchy (depending on how stale your bread is) but they sop up all that delicious garlicky broth and get soft but not mushy.
The soup is spectacular. Rich in flavor, but not too heavy, with hearty doses of veggies that complement the bread nicely. I used CSA spinach I had frozen last summer but you can use fresh or frozen chopped. Make sure your carrots are thinly shredded to give the best texture–you don’t want hard matchsticks of carrot floating around.