Crumbs Matter

March 31, 2014

This might seem silly to some but I am going to ask the question anyway. Are you using inferior breadcrumbs in your cooking? Just think of the many ways you cook with them, or maybe you don’t. I can’t imagine not having breadcrumbs around but I’m not talking about BOXED “breadcrumbs”! Because nothing will ever take the place of homemade, nothing! And they are the soul of so many things we cook. What are meatballs without breadcrumbs and where would chicken cutlets get their crunch, if not from breadcrumbs. Many a classic pasta dish, like Tuscan noodles called pinci require a sauce of breadcrumbs and the most historical of Sicilian pasta dishes were dressed with breadcrumbs and sugar, not tomatoes. Breadcrumbs have hundreds of uses from coating molds and baking pans to being a part of fillings for vegetables to the topping for casseroles and binders for sauces and stews. No cook should live without them.

To make good breadcrumbs and croutons too, start with bread with a coarse, not soft and mushy crumb. Day old country type bread is perfect for this. Allowed to dry out in a very low heat oven, left over and stale bread can produce wonderful breadcrumbs with a quick pass of a rolling pin or pulsed several times in a food processor.

I make breadcrumbs when I have a bagful of left over bread that I keep frozen. After laying the bread pieces on an oven baking sheet, they are put into a 300F. oven until the bread is brittle dry. Then I smash the pieces with a rolling pin or zap them in a food processor until reduced to fine crumbs. Store them in containers in the frig and freezer.

Really, it is so simple. Why would you spend money on boxed so called “breadcrumbs” that if you took the time to read the box label, has a litany of other “ingredients” such as mono nitrate, partially hydrated vegetable oil, fructose, potassium sorbate and stearage. What? And don’t even get me started on the “flavored” varieties with “herbs, flavoring and cheese.” You’ll never look at stale, leftover bread the same again.

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