Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Recipe: Lazy lady’s guilt-induced homemade frozen garlic bread

I often wish that I could be effortlessly crafty and creative and have a house full of homemade quilts and furniture that’s upcycled from empty soda cans and plastic wrap or something like that. But my projects inevitably look like something that a slow-witted six year old made during arts and crafts at summer camp.

This desire to be a creative DIY-er also extends to food, and although my cooking doesn’t possess the same deficiencies as my pathetic artistic efforts, it’s often trumped by another demon: Laziness. As much as I would like to make everything from scratch all the time, I just don’t have the time or inclination to do so, and sometimes (often) succumb to things such as store-bought frozen garlic bread.
It’s a scene that plays out frequently: I stand, paralyzed, in front of the freezer case at the grocery store. I grab a loaf of frozen garlic bread, read the list of unpronounceable ingredients, and guiltily put it back on the shelf, closing the freezer case door with a steely resolve. But I don’t walk away. I think about dinner and the task of making dinner and how yummy and convenient and inexpensive frozen garlic bread is, and how well it goes with spaghetti and meatballs. I might wonder if other shoppers are watching my dance of indecision, if they can see the little angel and devil on each of my shoulders, whispering in my ear. Buy it! The devil hisses. It’s delicious. You love it! Admit it!
He’s right. I do love it. I brush the angel away and quickly toss a loaf into my cart where it lands with a thud. I walk away in a shame spiral. I console myself by thinking that at least the meatballs will be homemade.
At home, the garlic bread is quick and easy and undeniably tasty, but I still feel yucky about all of the processed crap that I just served my family.
Then I had a revelation: I could make frozen garlic bread myself; make my own convenience food. With minimal upfront effort, you can be rewarded with an excellent harried-weeknight payoff.
Now I should warn you that I’m not claiming that this is health food. There’s a stick of butter in it for shit’s sake. But at least the four ingredients you put into it are recognizable, pronounceable, and regularly appear in kitchens, rather than test tubes. Check it out.

Recipe: Homemade frozen garlic bread
  • Take a stick of butter (the real stuff, please) out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter until it’s soft.
  • Roast a bulb of garlic in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until soft. (Click here for an excellent, visual tutorial on how to roast garlic).
  • When the garlic’s cool enough to touch, hold the bulb upside down and squeeze out the now-soft garlic into a mixing bowl. Note: Experiment with the amount of garlic to see how much you like. It's always easier to start with a little and add more.
  • Mix together the garlic and the soft butter until it’s smooth (ish). Add kosher salt to taste.
  • Take a loaf of any kind of rustic or Italian bread you like and cut it into one-inch slices. Line up the slices on a foil-lined sheet pan that you can easily fit into your freezer.
  • Slather each of the slices with a generous amount of garlic-butter.
  • For cheesy bread, grate some parmesan over the slices (using the big holes on your box grater), then press the cheese down into the bread a little so it sticks.
  • Put the whole shebang into the freezer until everything is frozen.
  • To store, place a slice-sized square of waxed or parchment paper between the slices, stack them up, and store them in gallon-sized zip-top freezer bags. I like putting four slices in each bag because that’s how many I generally would reheat for a single family meal.
  • To reheat, remove the waxed paper, and place the bread slices (butter side up, of course) on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until they’re golden and crispy.