Can a chef make croutons special? If the chef is Tim Dornon, chef de cuisine at Austin newcomer Qui, and the croutons are golden, buttery, and fragrant with poached lemon zest and thyme, the answer is yes.
The chef, who shared his recipe for a kimchi-and-fried-egg sandwich with Tasting Table last year, uses the croutons as a topping for a chilled garlic soup; they'd also be a sublime addition to salad, of course, or you could try these myriad ways to put this essential recipe to use.
Recipe adapted from Tim Dornon, Qui, Austin, TX
Yield: 3½ cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Small sourdough loaf, ½
Unsalted butter, 10 tablespoons
Fine sea salt, ½ teaspoon
Freshly ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon
Fresh thyme, 6 sprigs
1. On a cutting board, place the:
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the rind from half of the lemon. Turn the rind strips over and use a paring knife to slice off the white pith from the peel. Add the lemon strips to a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the peel to a small bowl. Discard the water in the saucepan, return the peel to the saucepan, cover with water, and repeat the boiling process twice more.
Transfer the peel to a cutting board and slice it into ⅛-inch-wide strips. Slice it crosswise into small pieces.
2. On a cutting board, place the:
- Sourdough loaf half
Use a bread knife to remove the crusts, then tear the interior of the loaf into small, bite-size pieces (you should have about 3½ cups). To a nonstick skillet set over medium heat, melt:
- 5 tablespoons of the unsalted butter
- Half the torn sourdough bread pieces
- ¼ teaspoon of the sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon of the freshly ground black pepper
Slowly brown the croutons, stirring often, until the croutons start to become golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add:
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- Half of the chopped lemon peel
Continue cooking until the croutons are deeply golden and the thyme is fragrant (take care, as the thyme may spatter), 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the croutons to a paper-towel-lined plate.
Repeat with the remaining bread, butter, salt, pepper, thyme and lemon peel. Serve warm or completely cooled (the croutons are best used within 1 day of making them).