DISH: Great Garlic Bread
TYPE: Italian-American Side Dish
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Bread, Butter, Garlic
I’m not a food snob. Officially. Though I abhor fast food and flavored corn chips (aka Doritos–yegh), I’m mostly happy eating simple fare, some of it kind of old-fashioned. I do like baking my own bread or canning tomatoes–projects–but I don’t care too much about buying sliced bread from the market so long as it’s not full of preservatives. I don’t love farm to table restaurants, finding there’s too much talk about the food. As much as I love to shop, cook, and eat, in the end I always come back to the fact that it’s just food. It should be delicious, it should bring people together, it might even be the basis of a career, but it’s not life, not completely.
That was all true until I met a very special butter. Now, I love butter. It’s one of those foods where you’re totally happy with what you’ve got–it’s butter, after all–until you find that there’s a one-up to the regular supermarket brands. The specialty butter I like the best is Vermont Creamery’s Cultured Butter. It’s amazing!! Alex can attest to how quickly I can destroy a delightful yellow tube of this.
As for the subject of this post: Garlic Bread, I think, falls into the camp of old-fashioned, not foodie food. It’s not terribly easy to find at a refined Italian restaurant. You have to go back to a red-saucy Italian joint to get some. Worse, garlic bread is not always all that good. It should be though, it’s made up of bread, butter, and garlic. What gives?
When I decided to test out garlic bread recipes for the site, I really thought about what made great garlic bread great. First, a lot of butter. It’s always a letdown when it’s merely the top that’s spread with flavor and, well, fat. I think it should penetrate all the way down. Second, an overwhelming raw garlic taste, one that means you can’t talk closely with anyone for the rest of the night, and potentially the next day. And third, bad, dry bread, which makes point #1 that much more necessary.
You can probably already guess how I addressed the butter problem. I used flavorful Vermont butter, and a lot of it, and I made slashes in the bread so the butter and garlic had the chance to sink deep into the bread. I also cooked the bread both open and closed, to let the minced garlic have a chance to cook–not so much it tasted roasted, but just enough to take the brutal kick of raw garlic off. Last, I bought a loaf of actual Italian bread, which is lighter and less chewy than a baguette, a ciabatta, or focaccia.
From my kitchen, getting buttery, old-school, and Italian, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Makes 24 thin slices
1 loaf italian bread, sliced in half lengthwise
12 tablespoons salted butter, softened
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary and sage, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, very finely minced with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Score the cut side of each side of the bread in a crosshatch, using a small serrated knife to cut partially through the bread. Don’t cut all the way through! This is so the butter will sink right in.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the butter, the herbs, and the garlic. Mix to distribute.
Spread the butter evenly on each half of the bread. It will be kinda thick. Don’t worry–when it melts, no one will know.
Sandwich the two sides together and wrap in heavy duty aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and turn it to broil. Open up the foil packet carefully, then place the bread, butter side up, on the top rack. Broil 1-2 minutes, watching with incredibly eagle eyes so you don’t burn the garlic, the bread, or the butter. When the butter is sizzling and the edges are gold, remove from the oven, slice into pieces, and serve.