One of the things we really like doing when we’re on vacation is to eat dinner at a grand lodge in one of the national parks. While it seems as if we must enjoy overpriced sub-standard meals, that isn’t really the reason we eat at the grand lodges. We just love the idea of it. Heading out for a day of hiking, then coming back in the evening exhausted, and having a nice meal in a spectacular setting. What could be better?
Well, for the most part, the food. Invariably, the food is mediocre at best, and this most recent trip was no exception. Considering that we had some of the simplest things on the menu (an appetizer, soup, salad, and dessert), it should have been far better. Take the appetizer, for example. We had mushroom bruschetta with shaved Parmesan. (Apparently, you pronounce the ‘ch’ as a ‘k’ — brusketta. Who knew? We didn’t.) It sounds fancy, but it’s really nothing more than small toasts with a bit of duxelles on them. But our toasts were huge — probably 6 inches long, making it difficult to eat without flinging mushrooms all over — and they were stale-ish. Ugh. Not to mention that the mushrooms had way, way too much garlic. Where did the idea that Italian food needs a lot of garlic come from, anyway? It’s wrong, but that’s another story.
Since you were kind enough to read through our diatribe, you are hereby rewarded with our way of making bruschetta. Crispy, light, small, beautiful, and tasty bruchetta.
Bread is the key. Good bread, not blunder bread. Fresh, too. If you wouldn’t like it for sandwiches, you won’t like it for little toasts.
Procedure in detail:
Make garlic oil. Don’t worry, this is very mild garlic oil. It’s basically olive oil with a hint of roasted garlic, and this will make more than you’ll use for these toasts. Put the extra in a jar, store it in the fridge, and use it any place you want a bit of garlic flavor. Place the garlic cloves and olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for 40 minutes, then remove and discard the garlic cloves. Let the oil cool.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment for easy cleanup. Baking parchment is a miracle tool in the kitchen; use it once, and you won’t want to live without it.
Cut disks. Use a small cookie cutter, say, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, to cut out disks of bread. They don’t have to be round, but cut them small enough that people can eat the toasts in one or two bites.
Brush with oil. Use a pastry brush to brush both sides of each disk with the garlic oil and place on the prepared pan.
Salt. Lightly sprinkle the disks with a bit of kosher salt.
Bake, flip, and bake. Slide the bruschetta into the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the top of each bruschetta is crisp. Flip over and bake on the other side another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bruschetta are golden and crisp.
There, that wasn’t so bad to make, was it? And these are perfect. Crisp, just as they should be. A perfect size, so you don’t have crumbs flying everywhere, with just a hint of garlic and salt to compliment the bread and toppings. Why restaurants, especially restaurants that try to be upscale, can’t do this is beyond us. It’s not as if it’s rocket science to make a small piece of toast. Five stars, before we get started on our rant again.
Oh, and for all those weird pieces of bread left after cutting out the disks, just cut them up, toss with a bit of garlic oil, salt, and pepper, bake until crisp, crush, and use for bread crumbs.