With so many of you having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — we get that it can be overwhelming to have to cook all your meals from scratch. So we’re here to get you started.
Each weekday, we’re going to post a new skill here and go into detail about how to do it — a resource for cooking basics so you can get food on the table and get through this.
Lesson 22: Buttery Garlic Bread
I was a freshman in college, a long way from home, when I devoured the best garlic bread I had ever had at Yorkside Pizza in New Haven, Conn. A new friend ordered a loaf as a study-break midnight snack and its scent reached us before it did. When it landed on our table, steam was still rising from the garlicky, cheese-smothered slabs of Italian bread. We ate it hot, catching the stretchy mozzarella strings in our mouths before biting into the butter-drenched center and crackly outer crust. This was happy, sloppy eating at its best.
My college reunion this spring was canceled, so I won’t be eating that garlic bread anytime soon (though Yorkside is still in business) but this version comes close.
It starts with an easy from-scratch garlic butter. Mixing garlic raw into butter ends up tasting steamy, and granulated dried garlic comes on too strong and feels a little dusty, so I start by sizzling finely minced fresh cloves in olive oil. Sautéeing the garlic lightly first enriches it while taking off its sharp edge. You need to uniformly and finely mince the garlic so you don’t end up biting into harsh little chunks later. Grating cloves against a Microplane zester is best, but a garlic press works too, as does very finely mincing with a knife. Once the garlic is fragrant and golden, it goes over cold butter and gets mashed in. Letting the butter melt on the bread in the oven helps it retain its creamy taste.
The bread is just as important as the right garlickyness, both in type and how you cut it. (For once, size actually doesn’t matter.) You want a white-flour loaf with a thin crust and fluffy insides. This isn’t the place for sourdough or anything hard-crusted, chewy or grainy; get supermarket bread labeled Italian, French or Portuguese. Mexican bolillos, Vietnamese baguettes or submarine sandwich rolls work too.
Cut the loaf open through its equator from end to end, as if making a sandwich. None of this slice-the-loaf-from-top-to-bottom business. When you butter vertically cut slices, you end up with dry, tasteless rings of crust around soggy, too-intense centers. Plus, it’s a lot of hassle. With split bread canoes, you get a light crispness on the golden tops, an even richness through the centers and crackling bottom crusts that cradle the garlic butter while being flavored by it. Whether you chew through the whole thing or cut it into strips is up to you.
By itself, this garlic bread tastes as great as it smells — and it smells pretty great. You can level it up if you like: Mix dried or fresh herbs into the garlic butter, sprinkle with chile flakes, bake with Parmesan or mozzarella or both, dip in hot marinara sauce. It tastes best hot and fresh out of the oven, but the garlic butter can be refrigerated or frozen so you can have a loaf ready anytime.