I actually ended up with a spare loaf of sour dough bread in the house this week that I knew I wasn't going to get used up soon enough. It was stale . . . but bread has a habit of going mouldy quickly over here and I didn't want that to happen , so I made half of it into soft bread crumbs (which I froze) and the other half I used to make my own croutons.
It's really not all that difficult to make your own croutons . . . and let me tell you, they surely taste a hundred times better than those ready made ones you find in the shops. In fact, I am going to go out on a limb here and say, that it would be well worth your while to buy a loaf just to make them. You can keep them in the freezer and then you will always have fresh croutons to hand . . . and they will be preservative free and most delicious!
Let me tell you . . . they smell fabulous when they are baking. Truly fabulous!
*Garlic Parmigiano Croutons*
Makes 4 cups
Crunchy and flavourful without being greasy. It goes without saying that using the lesser amount of oil will result in a lower fat crouton.
4 cups of crustless bread cubes, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes
60 to 120ml of extra virgin olive oil (1/4 to 1/2 cup)
90 to 135g of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled, de-germed and finely minced
fine seasalt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F, gas mark 5.
Toss the bread cubes in a bowl along with 60ml (1/4 cup) of the olive oil and 90g (1/2 cup) of the grated cheese, and all of the garlic. Add more cheese and garlic if necessary, adding only until all of the bread is coated. You will need enough oil to help the cheese adhere to the bread cubes. Spread the cubes out onto a large baking sheet, in a single layer. Sprinkle with some salt and black pepper to taste. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cheese has melted and the croutons are golden brown. Take care not to let the garlic burn. Cool before using. Store in the freezer an airtight container.
Of course once I had a nice big container of fresh croutons in the house . . . I was ready to make my Lazy Day Chicken Parmigiano casserole. It's like Chicken Parmigiano, but without all of the faff of having to bread the chicken and fry it.
You have all of the flavours of a traditional Chicken Parmigiano . . . tender and moist chicken breasts, blanketed in tomato marinara sauce (make sure you use a good marinara. I like the Napolina one over here. In North America, I would definitely use Prego), then the cheeses (Mozzarella and a good Parmegiano Reggiano) . . . and of course instead of breading, a delicious topping of fresh Garlic Parmigiano Croutons.
The chicken is especially tender . . . I slice boneless, skinless chicken breasts in half almost all the way through, fanning them out in the dish. I like to season them with a spicy seasoning, and I lay them on a bed of olive oil, minced garlic and a few crushed chilies . . . this ensures that there are delicious flavours and tenderness all the way through.
The lazy part is that there is no need to bread and fry the chicken . . . you quite simply cover it with a delicious marinara sauce, cheeses and then a final covering of crisp croutons. They get scrummily melted into the base . . . yet they stay nice and crisp on top. Altogether very moreish.
Trust me on this . . . who knew delicious could be so easy?? Don't you just love it! These make a fabulous, quick and easy supper, which everyone quite simply loves. Even the Toddster who says he doesn't like Italian food. Ha! Me thinketh he doth protest toooooo much, don't you?
*Lazy Day Chicken Parmigiano*
This has to be the easiest, most tastiest recipe for Chicken Parmesan going! I love it!
Olive oil spray
fresh garlic, two cloves, peeled and crushed
spicy chicken seasoning to taste
(I use Spade L Ranch)
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large jar of marinara sauce
a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 pound of mozzarella cheese, shredded
4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
a few handfuls of garlic croutons
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Spray a large shallow baking dish with the olive oil spray. Sprinkle the bottom with the garlic and chicken seasoning.
Wash the chicken breasts and pat them dry. Cut them in half through the middle, from the thin end to the widest end, leaving them attached at the wide end. Place them into the baking dish and fan them out slightly. Pour the marinara sauce over top to cover, spreading it out with a spoon. Sprinkle the basil leaves over top. Sprinkle with the cheeses, trying to cover the chicken evenly. Crush the croutons slighlty and sprinkle over top.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is meltingly oozingly golden and the sauce is bubbling and the chicken is tender and cooked through. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Delicious when served with steamed rice of pasta!