Again! I had a leftover baguette from last night's dinner. But never fear, I had a plan. I have a number of go-to recipes that are tailored for leftovers. Waste not, want not.
Croutons are a perfect way to recycle stale, crusty bread. To kick up the flavor, I soaked the bread in brown butter. In French, brown butter is called beurre noisette, which literally means hazelnut butter. It really does impart a nutty flavor to the croutons. I used the extra brown butter for the vinaigrette that I paired with sugar cane juice and sugar cane vinegar. I also added whole mandarin segments to add a citrus-y flavor.
1 can mandarin segments in light syrup, drained, 11 oz
1 baguette, one day old
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cubed, 12 Tbs
2 tsp garlic, finely minced
1 Tbs Himalayan salt
2 cups arugula
2 cups romaine lettuce
3 tomatoes, sliced
2 cups frisee lettuce
2 cups red oak leaves
1/2 cup sugar cane juice
1 Tbs sugar cane, or regular sugar
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
3 Tbs sugar cane vinegar
1 Tbs pickled garlic, finely minced
1/8 tsp green peppercorns, freshly crushed
The Brown Butter:
Melt all the butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. As soon as the butter is melted and bubbly, lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Add the minced garlic. You have to be very careful not to burn the butter. As soon as the color changes, remove the butter from the stove. Cool the butter for at least 15 minutes. Add the Himalayan salt.
Set aside 1/3 cup brown butter for the vinaigrette. Use the rest for the croutons.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Cut the bread into about 1-inch to 1.5-inch cubes. Spread the bread cubes onto a non-stick baking sheet. Drizzle some brown butter on the bread cubes. Mix well.
Bake for 12 minutes. Broil the bread for another 2 minutes. Remove from the oven. Cool the croutons for at least 15 minutes.
The sugar cane vinaigrette:
In a bowl, dissolve the sugar cane in the sugar cane vinegar. Add the mustard and the pickled garlic. Mix well. Set aside.
Place the sugar cane juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle simmer for about less than 5-6 minutes. The liquid should reduce to about a tablespoon of concentrated sugar cane juice. Remove from the heat. Add 1/3 cup of the brown butter and whisk immediately while the juice is still hot. Add the mustard / sugar cane vinegar mixture. Finish with the crushed green peppercorns.
Mix all the greens and croutons together. Add the sliced tomatoes. Drizzle with sugar cane vinaigrette. Finish with the mandarin segments. Serve immediately.
I wanted to keep a sugar cane theme for the dressing. You can find sugar cane and sugar cane vinegar in any Asian stores in downtown San Jose in you live in the Bay Area. Sugar cane looks very similar to brown sugar. I get fresh sugar cane juice from Thanh Son.
While waiting for the butter to brown, you have to be very cautious. Don't go anywhere else. If the phone rings or someone's at the door, let it be. You gotta focus on your butter otherwise the butter won't have a nice nutty taste, it'll simply be burnt. As soon as you have a caramel color, remove the butter from the stove. You should use a non-black bottom saucepan to be able to accurately determine when the color of the butter changes.
Never store tomatoes in the refrigerator! Store them as you would store fruits. Place them in a cool area, not in direct sunlight. That will help the tomato maintain the best flavor possible. I planted my first tomatoes in my vegetable garden in early March. I can't wait to start picking those juicy tomatoes come summer.
I used pickled garlic so that it does not overpower the vinaigrette. If you don't mind the not-so-mild flavor, use fresh garlic.
Baguettes are best on the day they're made. It's best to store your baguettes in a linen / cotton or paper bag. Do not store in a plastic bag, it'll lose all its crunch. Also, do not store next to a heating source becase it'll get the bread hard.
You can also make bread crumbs that I use for my mac & cheese or garlic bread for soups and salads.
If you want to use clarified butter, you can melt ghee or you can also use regular butter that you strain using a cheesecloth. I used ghee for my Indian curry tofu pot pie, it brings a lot of flavor.
Check out my other salad dressing recipes like my champagne kumquat vinaigrette, gorgonzola ranch salad dressing, white balsamic vinaigrette and my kumquat clementine vinaigrette.