The Unexpected Ingredient That Will Elevate Your Croutons

For so many recipes and for so many ingredients, fresher is better, which means we end up using foods either before or after they're at their peak. Really — avocados seem to go from rock-hard to mush in about 15 minutes. There are few recipes that actually benefit from no-longer-fresh ingredients, but here's one that does: croutons! Croutons are pretty darn simple; you just toast up some stale bread – Delish recommends a sourdough boule or a French baguette — that you've drizzled with olive oil. Whether cooked on the stovetop or in the oven, croutons take mere minutes to make.

Plain croutons, made with just olive oil, are wonderful to have on hand because they'll go with pretty much any salad. If you have a special dish, though, you may want to pair the flavors in your croutons with the flavors in your recipe so you have a harmonious balance. These delectable lemon-thyme croutons, for example, are designed to float atop a chilled garlic soup. Other than citrus and herbs, there's an unexpected ingredient that will make croutons the star of your salad.

Anchovy filets will elevate your croutons

If a Caesar salad is on your menu, Serious Eats has the perfect crouton recipe, and the secret ingredient is anchovy filets. These savory, crunchy croutons start with sourdough bread, and the recipe is remarkably simple. Just cook the anchovy filets in olive oil in a skillet until the little fish dissolve into tiny pieces. If you're using salt-packed rather than oil-packed anchovies, it'll take a little longer for the fish to break down.

Once you have your anchovy-laden olive oil, add your cubed sourdough bread, turning to coat all the pieces. You can finish the croutons either in the oven or on the stove, and when they're done, you'll have richly-flavored, toasted pieces that carry the hint of anchovy throughout your dish. For an even more elevated Caesar salad experience, try grilling your heads of romaine lettuce before adding your homemade Caesar dressing, Parmesan cheese, and anchovy croutons. Because some Caesar salad dressing recipes include anchovies, if you're using these anchovy croutons, you may wish to omit the little fish from your salad dressing.