A very simple post today, to see us through the midweek slump. This was a breadcrumb topping I tossed together one Sunday to sprinkle over some macaroni cheese, but you could easily use it on any other baked casserole, toast it up in a pan and stir through spaghetti or use to coat chicken fillets before frying or baking.
There’s nothing complicated here – but sometimes it can be good to share the simplest recipes, can’t it? Because really, they’re what sustains us day after day. Now and again you just need something to spark an idea in your head, and if this does it for you, I’ll be delighted. Sometimes you need to be able to throw something together from what you have in the cupboard, too, and this recipe does just that.
Makes enough to top one 8 x 8 casserole dish:
- 1 thick slice wholegrain, seeded or other bread
- 2 tbsp dried herbs – I used thyme, basil and oregano, but go ahead and mix your own, or use a ready mixed… mixture…
- 2 tsp dried parmesan (it’s good for something!), or very finely grated fresh cheese
- ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 – 4 tsp olive oil
Process or grate the bread into crumbs. I was at the G man’s house, so I had to go without a food processor and make the breadcrumbs the retro way. You can grate a slice of bread if you’re careful about your knuckles – the kind of grater that sits over a container that catches the crumbs is best. I’m serious about the knuckles.
Stir the herbs, cheese and pepper into the breadcrumbs. Add the oil, one spoonful at a time, and mix well so that all the bread is moistened, and all the oil is absorbed. Adding the oil means that the crumbs will get crisp and brown without drying out – you can definitely proceed with just the bread, but it won’t have the same texture or flavour. Mixing the oil into the bread, rather than drizzling over the top, means you’ll get an even finish with no splotches where there’s loads of oil, and no deserts where there’s none at all.
Apply before baking – watch carefully and don’t give it too much heat. I zapped mine under the grill and didn’t watch *quite* as carefully as I should have, but in the end I rescued it just in time. One thing about grilling mac and cheese instead of baking was that the sauce didn’t thicken to the point of being able to serve neat portions. Instead, we had loose portions with breadcrumbs scattered throughout, where they had fallen in during serving. You know what, though? I liked this better than when all the topping stays on top.
One of my favourite things is to eat macaroni cheese with two slices of well-buttered (read: sagging under the weight of the butter) toast, and to make sandwiches as I eat. It’s great, and I urge you to try it. However, applying these breadcrumbs, crisping them up under the grill and then serving them scattered (accidentally) through the pasta was almost as good, and involved less effort and less chance of stray macaroni rolling out of my sandwich and down the side of the couch.
I wonder if this is what making an important scientific discovery feels like?