At our house, when anything we bake is topped with cheese and inevitably some of it falls overboard onto the pan becoming all golden brown and crispy...you have to be fast, and efficient with a spatula, if you want to scrape all that goodness up and claim it for yourself. This ritual is akin to the 'lick the bowl' syndrome which occurs frequently at the Robertses, but it's cheese that gets left behind instead, but not for long. That's what Parmesan Crisps remind me of, though they are easier on they eyes. Belying their presentation is the simplicity in making them. Apparently they reminded Michael, Ethan, Bryan (not our kid but might as well be & we claim him), Jonah, Kalyn, Trevor and Ashton of the 'cheese drips' to because I consistently found myself repeating, "eat another bite and you will not live to tell about it". They were to be served with dinner, after all. Beautiful garnishes. On our salads. As salad crowns. With my homemade croutons (warnings were given regarding these as well). On Shawn's birthday. There were only 9 of them. One for each of us. Get the picture?
Parmesan Crisps or Fricos (from the Friuli region of Italy)
(makes 8-9 large crisps, about 3-3.5")
1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (you may also use corn meal, flour, or wheat flour)
1/4-1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp olive oil
Combine shredded Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and pepper in a small bowl.
Spread olive oil on baking sheet. Drop by large spoonfuls about 3-4" apart on baking sheet (I make 6 to a sheet). It is really best to use a silicone mat or line the pan with parchment paper for easy removal. I didn't but I know from experience it's easier. Slightly pat flat so they are not big mounds.
Bake at 350 for about 5-6 minutes and allow to cool slightly. Remove them from the pan with a spatula.
You can make these ahead, storing them in between wax paper in an airtight container for up to a week.
*Variations: These can be made with just the parmesan cheese, which I've done in the past. They come out beautifully, looking more like lace with little holes between.
*Fresh Herbs. Add a tablespoon or two to your crisp mixture. Rosemary and thyme are two favorites.
*3-4 teaspoons smoked Paprika
*Gorgeous variations include making them into small Paremesan cups, filled with cheese mousse or a salad. Prep is the same but bake them about 3-4 minutes, cool for a minute or two and then remove from the sheet with a spatula and while still warm place them over an upside down shot glass, egg carton, small cup, etc. and allow to cool to form little bowls.
Cookin Canuck serves Spinach salad in her Bowls.
Okay, now let's get on to the croutons. Loaded with butter, garlic, parmesan cheese, onion and a wee bit of parsley, they are addictive.
Seriously. If you're one of those 'I can't eat just one' people then you are going to fit right in. No more croutons = fightin' words at my house.
Nancy's Homemade Croutons
(I always, always double or triple this because...well you read it above)
8 slices white sandwich bread, etc. I don't trim the crust. Cut into 3/4" squares or tear into bite sized chunks...size, shape...up to you.
1 stick salted butter, melted
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons grated parmesan (I use the canned version)
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
Spread the bread crumbs onto a cookie sheet, or sheets, and bake at 250-275 for about 15 minutes. You may want to pull them out, stir them around and bake an additional 10 or so minutes until they are thoroughly dried out.
Once they are dried and out of the oven, melt your butter and add to it the parmesan cheese, garlic and onion powders and the parsley.
Stir to blend.
The parmesan cheese swells a bit and the mixture separates a little but don't fret...
just pour it all over your bread crumbs trying to coat them evenly (sometimes I shake the crumbs with the butter mixture in a ziploc bag to coat).
Bake at 250-275 for another 10-15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
Store in a Ziploc bag up to 10 days...if they last that long!
Oh, and don't forget to gather up all of the leftover crouton crumbs on the pan...they are worth fighting over too! I sprinkle them over our salads.
Toss them in your favorite salad. They're perfect with Caesaer or as someone I used to know once called it, a Seizure salad.