In Praise of Croutons

I picked up a Celery soup recipe several years ago and was immediately impressed with how everyday inexpensive ingredients could be transformed into such delight. And it wasn’t just the celery that impressed me, but the croutons. Just a few tasty crunchies topping that bowl of soup at serving made me swoon.

I do absolutely recommend that soup recipe and these crouton instructions. Your cooking should definitely include the skill of quickly creating a crouton with what’s at hand. Find ways to turn that aging loaf of bread on your counter into the triumphant topping to tonight’s dinner. Any salad will accept an addition of crouton. Most casseroles like macaroni and cheese, goulash, or scalloped potatoes will welcome the additional crunch. And you don’t even have to bake it in, if you’re reheating leftovers, a careful toss of croutons on top will liven it up for it’s second take.

Oh, by the way, the recipes always call for fresh herbs which are the optimal and most flavorful. However, don’t make a special trip to the store or think it’s only a summer recipe if you don’t have fresh tarragon, thyme, et al. In fact, unless it is a raw recipe, dried is a perfectly suitable substitution because the more an herb cooks the less flavor and substance it has anyway. Be confident using your dried herbs. For these croutons, let the butter or oil rehydrate them. Typically the conversion is 3:1 fresh to dried, so if it calls for a Tablespoon of fresh herb, start with a teaspoon of dried and adjust to taste. Always taste and adjust to taste: you are in charge here, the recipe or faraway chef is not.

By the way, seriously, try this soup.

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