Sunday, April 22, 2012

Roasted Garlic-Herb Cheese Bread

Kristin and I faced a puzzle this week.  We knew we wanted some pasta to eat, but none of the ways to jazz up basic spaghetti with marinara seemed all that appealing to us.  We just couldn't figure out how to take the meal from standard to interesting.

Then, it became clear.  Leave the spaghetti alone, and just make something awesome to go with it.  Alongside our simple pasta, I put together some garlic bread made from home-roasted garlic and topped with just a little bit of Mozzarella, Parmesan, and Asiago cheeses.  It was just what we needed.

You don't need terribly much for this bread.  Start with bread, of course - supermarket-made will do, though I look forward to repeating the recipe with my own baguettes when I have a little more time.  The bread will be topped with a compound butter made from salted butter, a bulb or two of garlic, plenty of herbs (I used Herbes de Provence), salt, and pepper.  Over all of that goes some Mozzarella, Parmesan, and Asiago cheese.

What really makes this bread great is roasting the garlic.  You can make perfectly good garlic bread from raw minced garlic or even from garlic powder, of course.  Roasting whole bulbs of garlic really intensifies the flavor and adds some sweetness in place of that raw-garlic bite.  It's fantastic, and so easy.

First, peel as much of the outer, papery layer from the bulbs as you can.  If you miss a bit, it's hardly the end of the world - we'll squeeze individual cloves out from the bulb later, anyhow.

With a sharp knife, cut the top 1/4 inch or so off of the whole bulb (from the pointed tip).  If your bulb was uneven like mine, you'll need to go clove-by-clove after the first slice.  Make sure the actual flesh of each clove is visible from the top.

I've found that the easiest way to cleanly roast garlic is inside of foil, with the foil sitting in the cup of a muffin tin in case it leaks.  With your garlic bulbs safely nestled in foil in the muffin tin, drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil, then some salt and black pepper.  Fold the foil closed over the top of the bulbs, and you're set to go.

Roast your foil-covered garlic bulbs at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes until the cloves are golden brown and tender.  Be very, very careful checking this - you can burn your fingers very easily.

Let the garlic cool for a good ten minutes, then it's ready to turn into roasted garlic butter.  Add a stick of softened butter, your roasted garlic, a good dash of herbs, and some salt and pepper to the bowl of a food processor.

Whir it up until you've got a nice, smooth compound butter.  If you want to save some of this butter for later, roll it into a log in some parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge.  For our purposes, though, we'll take it straight to the bread.

Drop the oven down to 350 degrees and it should hit the right temperature when the bright is right about ready to go in.

Slice your bread in half lengthwise and spread generously with your garlic butter.

Bake the buttered bread in a 350 degree oven for 7-10 minutes until the buttered top has soaked in and more or less set.  You don't want the bread to be quite done at this point, but it should be close.

Turn the oven up to broil while we cheese the bread.

Sprinkle just a bit of mozzarella cheese over the top of the bread, then grate Asiago and/or Parmesan cheeses over the top of the rest.  Throw it back in the oven under the broiler and watch it carefully - it should be a minute, at the most, before the cheese is well-melted and bubbly and the edges of the bread get dark and crispy.

Slice it up and serve hot - preferably alongside a dish with some good sauce to soak up.

Recipe: Roasted Garlic-Herb Cheese Bread
Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 50 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: One Loaf

  • 1 loaf French Bread
  • 1-2 large bulbs Garlic
  • 1 stick Butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp Herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese
  • Grated Parmesan and Asiago cheeses to taste
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel papery outer layer from garlic bulbs and slice off top 1/4 inch of cloves.
  3. Line cups of a muffin tin with foil and place garlic bulbs sliced-side up.  Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Close foil over garlic.
  4. Roast garlic at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes until golden-brown and tender.  Let cool 10 minutes and squeeze cloves out from skin.
  5. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.
  6. Combine softened butter, roasted garlic cloves, herbes de provence, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth.
  7. Slice bread in half lengthwise and cover generously with garlic-butter.  Bake at 350 degrees 7-10 minutes until nearly done, then remove from oven and set oven to broil.
  8. Cover garlic bread with a small amount of mozzarella cheese.  Grate Asiago and Parmesan cheese over top to taste.
  9. Broil cheese-covered bread 30-60 seconds until cheese is melted and edges are crispy.
  10. Serve hot.

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