Recently, the following text appeared on my phone:
“Garlic bread. Should I just make garlic butter and spread it on the bread and then bake it? If so, how do I make the garlic butter? ”
While I’m used to getting weird food questions and recipe requests from friends this was a new country heard from–my brother, WonderTwin1, who generally doesn’t know enough about cooking to muster a reasonable question in the first place. Interesting.
Of course, about a week before this particular text, WonderTwin1 started his new job manny-ing for a family on New York’s Upper West Side: three tween boys to corral, and on some occasions, feed. This is amusing on several fronts, but most immediately because WonderTwin1, unlike his brother WonderTwinA, can’t really cook. Garlic bread question notwithstanding, though, I’ve gotten far fewer frantic calls than I expected to…
But it’s early yet, and I’m hoping that WT1 will be able to give me a little bit more notice next time he needs to know the best way to reheat sliced flank steak (quickly, with some sort of sauce, and hope that your tweens are hungry and have good teeth) or easy garlic bread directions. I’ll spare you the txt version of the recipe I came up with on the fly, but here’s a slightly more formalized one in case you have a bunch of hungry boys fresh from soccer practice and are looking for some garlic bread.
Basically, we’re making a quick beurre composé, aka compound butter, aka butter with flavorful things smooshed into it. Here, garlic and herbs take the day, but the sky’s the limit. If you don’t want to make a full loaf of garlic bread, still go ahead and do the full batch of butter. It’s something that you’ll find any number of uses for… saute some spinach with it, or take a pat and rest it atop a hot steak… or even some of that sad leftover flank steak. Garlic butter will make ANYTHING better.
A quick note on the bread: you want a squidgy supermarket bread–fairly soft, with a relatively tight, close crumb. A softish baguette that would horrify a Parisian or a loaf of what the Big Y used to call “Italian bread”. This is not the time for artisanal anything.
Quick Garlic Bread for Tweens
Yield: 1 loaf (or, about 4.65 minutes of silence at the dinner table)
1 stick (4oz) unsalted butter, softened
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp coarse, flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs minced fresh herbs (basil, parsley, whatever–optional)
Preheat the oven to 325° (or so, if you’ve got anything else baking in the general neighborhood of that temp, that should be fine).
Make sure your butter is softened. If not, mash it about with a fork and let it sit out for a bit.
With a nice sharp broad-bladed chef’s knife, mince the garlic finely. Sprinkle the salt over the minced garlic and, with the flat side of the blade, smoosh the garlic into a paste. Work through the pile of salty garlic a little at a time, pressing and scraping it between the dull edge of the knife and the cutting board. Repeat till you’ve got a fairly homogenous paste. Mince your herbs.
Mix the garlic paste, herbs, and some freshly ground black pepper into your softened butter.
Grab your loaf of bread and slice it nearly all the way through, leaving the bottom crust intact, in about 3/4″ slices. Place the loaf on a piece of foil large enough to wrap it up in, and spread the butter on one side of each slice, working your way down the loaf. If you have any left over, plop it in a bowl, cover it, and put it in the fridge for a rainy day (in the near future).
Wrap the loaf tightly in the foil and, about 20 min before serving, put in a preheated oven. Per the above note, temperature isn’t that big a deal, so long as it’s in the 300s somewhere. Pull it when you can smell the garlic and it’s warmed through, 10-15 minutes.
Open the foil carefully and, if you like put back in the oven for a minute to crisp the top crust. Or just get it onto the table, piping hot, and let it be devoured.