A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big, BIG everything else: flavor, ideas, holy-cow factor. Psst: We don't count salt or cooking fat (say, olive oil to sauté onions), since we're guessing you have those covered. This time, we're whipping up the garlickiest garlic bread that ever was.
For some, it isn’t summer without an ocean. Without lemonade. Mosquito bites. That white, cotton dress. For others, it isn’t summer without a sunburn. A getaway. Ice cream melting down wrists. And forearms. And elbows.
But for me, it isn’t summer without garlic bread.
It doesn’t matter what goes with it. For most of my childhood, most of my family’s July and August dinners started on the grill. Maybe it was burgers or dogs, steak or shrimp, zucchini or onion. One time, it was a sausage that a seagull swooped down and stole between her beak. In any case, garlic bread goes perfectly with all of this.
We never used a recipe, just: Whatever bread was nearby, fresh from a bakery, or about to start molding on the kitchen counter. Butter, fresh garlic, usually herbs, maybe cheese. When my brother decided to become kosher as a teenager, we swapped out the butter for olive oil and dropped the cheese. But I always missed both.
Garlic bread is a source of great pride at Italian-American restaurants, of which my home state, New Jersey, has no shortage. The best versions are a balancing act: Between crusty edges and fluffy centers. Rich butter and spicy garlic. Fresh herbs and salty cheese. If your fingers don’t leave the whole shindig slick and shiny, like a brand new car, you’re doing it wrong.
Even more than buttery, though, I want it to be garlicky. When a recipe title promises something, anything, I want all that and more. If you say coconut cream pie, well, it better be the coconuttiest. And if you say garlic bread, the garlickiest.
The good news here? That doesn’t mean any extra ingredients. It just means extra garlic. Depending on the recipe, this star ingredient can arrive in various outfits: garlic powder or granulated garlic (which are not, actually, the same thing—both are dehydrated, then ground to different finenesses). Garlic salt (either of the former plus salt, depending on the brand). And fresh garlic.
Because this is Big Little Recipes, we’ll pick one, then wring it for all its worth. The most adaptable of the bunch, by far, is fresh garlic. My family minced this up, mixed with butter, smeared on bread, and baked in the oven until toasty.
We’ll do just that. Except it won’t be just butter. It’ll be garlic confit butter. Can you tell I’m smiling as I write this? I just can’t help it. Garlic confit butter! “Confit” is a French word for preserved food, done so by slooowly cooking in a liquid, often fat. Classic duck confit is duck cooked in duck fat. Here, we’re doing a fuss-free, streamlined version:
Basically, you melt butter in a little saucepan or skillet, and add some garlic cloves. Okay, a lot of garlic cloves. Okay, two heads’ worth of garlic cloves. Simmer for 45 minutes until both the butter and garlic are golden and coppery and soft and sweet enough to eat all on their own.
But don’t. This garlic butter becomes the foundation for all the usual suspects: minced raw garlic (yes, more!), fresh parsley, and a big pinch of salt. I like to smear it on a rustic, airy Italian-style loaf, like a ciabatta, versus a more sturdy-crusted, French-style bread, like a baguette. Garlic bread should be crackly and crispy, but still tender enough to tear with your hands, scarf down without poking the roof of your mouth.
If any leftovers should survive, save them for tomorrow’s sandwiches. This hasn’t happened for me yet, but we have the whole summer to try.
- 2 heads garlic, broken into cloves, smashed, if you please, and peeled
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 lengthy, airy loaf Italian bread (roughly 9 x 4 inches in length)
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons grated pecorino or Parmesan
What's your favorite thing to serve with garlic bread? Tell us in the comments!