Last week I re-introduced my How-To series with a post on How to: Roast Garlic. Having staples, such as roasted garlic and homemade breadcrumbs, on hand makes meal preparation that much easier and more efficient. That roasted garlic, besides being eaten smeared on some crackers with roasted red peppers, was put to good use in my new lunchtime favorite, Frittata with Pancetta, Mushrooms & Roasted Garlic.
Another essential ingredient that I keep tucked away in my freezer is homemade breadcrumbs. Sure, it's easy to buy containers of breadcrumbs at the grocery store, but you can save some precious dimes and be rewarded with a much tastier product if you make them yourself. I promise that it doesn't take long. Plus, it's a great way to use up those dried pieces of bread that would otherwise be headed for the garbage can.
Simply pulse the dried bread (I'll walk you through the method to dry out the bread) in a food processor until it reaches the desired consistency. That's it! If you want to pre-mix and store your breadcrumbs with spices and herbs, that will make dinner prep even more efficient. Think how easy it would be to lay some tilapia in a baking dish, toss some pre-seasoned breadcrumbs with olive oil, top the fish with the mixture and bake the whole thing in the oven. Dinner will be ready in less than 20 minutes. Now you KNOW you want to pre-make those breadcrumbs!
How to make breadcrumbs:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Cut the crusts off the bread, if desired. If you prefer more variation in color for your breadcrumbs, leave on the crusts.
Lay the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once the bread is dry and barely starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool.
If your bread has been sitting around for a couple of days, it will likely not be necessary to dry it in the oven. Remember, you can use dry bread, but not stale bread. Stale bread means stale breadcrumbs and, trust me, nobody wants that!
Break the bread into 1 to 2 inch pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. You may need to do this in two batches.
Pulse until the breadcrumbs reach the desired consistency. I like my breadcrumbs to have a mixture of pebble-sized pieces as well as finely ground crumbs, but use whatever consistency suits your needs the best.
The breadcrumbs will stay fresh in the pantry for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 6 months, provided they are packaged in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bags.
Whole Wheat Breadcrumbs:
Breadcrumbs can be made from almost any type of bread. You can use pieces of baguette, sourdough or even rye bread. If you are looking for a whole grain option, use your favorite whole wheat bread, following the same process outlined above.
To make dinner prep even easier, stir various herbs and spices into the breadcrumbs and store in separate freezer bags. Depending on the flavors you like, the sky's the limit. Here are a few ideas:
For all of these variations, start with the basic mixture of 2 cups breadcrumbs, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
Italian breadcrumbs: Mix in 1 teaspoon dried basil and 1 teaspoon dried oregano into the basic mixture.
Southwestern breadcrumbs: Stir ¾ teaspoon chile powder and ¾ teaspoon ground cumin into the basic mixture.
Spanish-style breadcrumbs: Stir 1 teaspoon smoked paprika into the basic mixture.
French-style breadcrumbs: Stir 1 ½ teaspoon Herbes de Provence (typically a mix of savory, basil, fennel, thyme & lavender) into the basic mixture.
I'd love to hear about your favorite mixtures.
Recipes using breadcrumbs:
Cookin' Canuck's Black Bean Patties with Avocado & Tomato Salsa
Cookin' Canuck's Baked Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs
First Look, Then Cook's Stuffed Zucchini with Cheesy Breadcrumbs
What Would Cathy Eat's Pasta with Zucchini, Chickpeas & Gremolata Breadcrumbs
Bitchin' Camero's Leek & Gruyere Quiche with Bacon Breadcrumbs