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Lots of recipes call for topping with breadcrumbs. For many us, breadcrumbs are an afterthought and we grab the nearest cardboard box. Bread from a box usually tastes just like cardboard. But breadcrumbs can add more than just crunch; they can add a lot of flavor.

Good breadcrumbs come from good bread. Just like the rule to use drinkable wine in cooking, bread will not get any better when used in cooking. Start with wine and bread that taste good and the resulting dishes will taste good. I have used white, wheat, or rye breads to make breadcrumbs. The bread does not have to be stale, but making breadcrumbs is a good way not to waste stale bread. If the bread is stale, I moisten with a little more oil when toasting.

To make breadcrumbs, slice the bread and sprinkle with olive oil. Toast until light brown, about five minutes at 350 degrees. Grind the bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a fry pan. Add one or two cloves of minced garlic. (Alternatively, add several cloves of roasted garlic for a milder taste.) Add the crumbs and cook until light brown. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Add the zest of one lemon. Add a couple of tablespoons of a fresh, chopped herb. Choose from one of the following herbs: Italian parsley, thyme, tarragon, oregano, sage, rosemary, chives, or basil. Breadcrumbs will last a couple of days in a sealed container and several months in the freezer. Breadcrumbs will not last in a cardboard box.

So many dishes are even better with a crunchy and flavorful breadcrumb topping: baked vegetable gratins, any pasta dish, poached eggs, steamed or sauteed vegetables, baked or sauteed fish, or hearty meat stews. You can also add some grated parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs for a fuller flavor.

2 Comments for “How to Build Better Breadcrumbs”  

  1. Deborah

    How much bread to the 2 garlic cloves?

    Thinly sliced bread?

    Why is the oven preferable to the toaster for step 2?

  2. Anne

    Great questions! I use about four thickly-sliced pieces of bread…but you can use more or less depending on how flavorful you would like your breadcrumbs. I use th oven for a large amount of bread or the toaster for a small amount of bread.