Saturday, 4 February 2012
Anyone roaming around the food sites lately must have seen that the big trend for the last week was party foods. The Super Bowl brings with it an absolute feast of wings, sliders, chili, chips and dips. I spend quite some time drooling over them all seeing that our own national sport, Hurling (yes, you read right) has an entirely different image associated with it. Supporters travelling in a hired bus, wearing their county jerseys (Up Tipp!), ham sandwiches wrapped in the local bakery's waxy packaging (Hickeys) and a flask of tea. Not so glamorous, but you can't beat a good ham sandwich.
When making food for a party or crowd, foods that are simple to eat with your hands and fingers are by far the best choices. I have filed away lots of lovely things to try for a larger gathering. One thing I've come across quite a lot is a cheese-filled loaf of bread to share called either a 'pull apart bread' or a 'blooming onion'. It looked great and I loved the idea of it, but the thought of serving it to a crowd was enough to bring me out in a cold sweat. Well, just the thoughts of people pulling lumps from the loaf and the stringy cheese going everywhere, butter dripping all over the place - no thank you!
Instead I have transformed it into something else… an individual portioned blooming crouton to serve with a bowl of soup. Cutting right back on the butter and cheese of the original, this is like a big flavored crouton dried out in the oven to tear into your soup. So, this is not so much a recipe I suppose, more like a suggestion or a starting point. I would flavor the crouton according to the soup or salad you intend to serve it with. Garlic butter and parmesan with a minestrone might be nice; bacon and spring onion with a pea soup is another I thought of. Sprinkling some poppy or sesame seeds over would add another dimension. Or indeed make the original one and stuff it full to bursting with cheese if you think your nerves could stand it.
Here is how to make a blooming crouton!
One crusty bread roll per person
Some fillings of your choice - I used for two people
2 slices of cheese
2 slices of parma ham
4 cherry tomatoes quartered
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for drizzling
a little bit of butter (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the bread lengthwise and widthwise without cutting clean through the bottom. Place loaf on a baking sheet. Push your fillings down and between the cuts in the rolls slices Drizzle the olive oil over the bread, dot with the butter and season with salt and pepper.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until nicely colored and crisped up.
Serve one per person to accompany nice bowl of soup or a lunch time salad - blooming lovely!