My mother’s standard party donation is a boule of pumpernickel bread with the center scooped out and filled with a spinach dip that includes water chestnuts because, of course. The sides are cut into fingers that remain attached at the base (as “severed fingers” would be unsettling, yes?) and can be torn off when the urge comes to swipe one through the center. The urge will come often, so I try to position myself in any room that the boule is not. Nevertheless, I hadn’t considered that there were other approaches to party bread until I came upon this 1998 recipe for one in Taste of Home, the belly full of dip forwent for a multi-pronged attacked of butter, cheese, scallions and poppy seeds, all toasted until melted and crisp.
But why stop there? You could pretty confidently argue that you’ve happened upon a lucky series of life choices when you get to spend half an hour on a Wednesday morning at Whole Foods debating what you’d like to put on your party bread in addition to butter and cheese. There was so much to consider! I considered rarebit-ing it, with a boiled mess of butter, beer, mustard powder, paprika, cayenne, Worcestershire and a scattering of cheddar that I might dream about tonight. I wondered if we ought to go French, with gruyere, shallots and herbes de provence or style it like an American baked potato, with chives and bacon, sour cream and cheese. And then I realized that I’ve never once covered garlic bread on this site and was suddenly filled with purpose and couldn’t wait to get home and start playing in the kitchen.
Yes, it’s true: garlic bread fills me with purpose. Garlic bread with herbs and cheese fills me with glee. So I came home and an hour later, this had happened and I was forced to experience the adversity of being alone in the apartment with it for hours until the remainder of my family would return at dinner time and we could pass it off as a side dish. It wasn’t easy; it smells unholy-level good. It maybe lost a couple “finger” croutons before game time (pull from the edges and it’s your little secret, I learned). But I imagine that were it appropriately situated, maybe alongside a giant pot of simmering red sauce-ed meatballs or grilled sausages, these butter-drenched garlic fingers with fresh rosemary, oregano, two types of sharp and one type of melty cheese burrowed deep inside a round of sourdough bread and taken from the oven right as some game (basketball, right?) is going on a few miles from here on a Sunday afternoon, well, I imagine it would make you some sort of hero.
Other Superbowl Party Snack ideas: Meatball Subs with Caramelized Onions; Beef Chili + Cheddar Biscuits; Easiest Baked Mac-and-Cheese or Martha’s more indulgent one; Sweet and Smoky Oven Spare Ribs; Slow-and-Low Dry-Rub Oven Chicken; Baked Potato Soup; Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar; Minature Soft Pretzels; Bretzel Rolls (for sandwiches!); Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread; Chicken Empanadas with Chorizo and Olives; Ethereally Smooth Hummus; Mama Canales-Garcia’s Avocado-Shrimp Salsa, Potato Chip Cookies (or the Buttered Popcorn Cookies from the book) or Salted Caramel Brownies.
Smitten Kitchen on Pinterest, at laaaast: I admit, I was a bit of a Pinterest Resister (silly Deb), but I’m so glad I’ve come around because we’ve spent the last month building a Smitten Kitchen Pinterest Page with every single recipe that’s ever been on the site at the ready-click for (hopefully) your home-cooking inspiration. Right now, there are just a few main folders — Recipes (the entirety of the archives far more easy to pour over than they are on the site), Tips (links out to how-tos and other tips posts) and Cookbook (highlighting recipes from the book, more to come), but I’d like to add a few more sub-boards going forward, such as the in-progress “last night’s dinner” (what I’ve most recently cooked from the site on a weekday night) and “favorite kitchen tools” (which I hope you’ll find helpful if you’ve ever asked me in the comments where I got a bowl or peeler and, understandably, could never find my deeply buried response comment again) as well as collections of recipes (e.g. Gluten-Free and Vegetarian or Vegan, plus holiday collections like Valentines Day and the like as needed). Whee! [Smitten Kitchen on Pinterest]
Smitten Kitchen on Instagram, too: Well, I’ve long been an Instagram junkie, but I didn’t want to clutter my feed of life outtakes (@thesmitten) with promotional new post announcements for the site, so I’ve created a separate feed (@smittenkitchen) where you can find out when a new recipe has gone up. [Smitten Kitchen on Instagram]
Garlicky Party Bread with Herbs and Cheese
Inspired by Taste of Home
This is definitely a flexible recipe; you can use any cheese and herbs you’d like, or seasonings. (I mentioned a few ideas that inspired me in the post.) I had intended to wind some thin strips of proscuitto around fingers, but then copped out at the last minute but my husband really thinks you should try it. Or, a scattering of bacon bits. I didn’t use all of the suggested cheese, because I was afraid it would be too much, which was obviously a silly idea. Use all the cheese, always, people. The one thing I’d be more careful with next time, however, is finding a sourdough that’s more sturdy. My soft, pretty fresh loaf had floppy fingers and I worried they’d stick together (only a little; can still be pulled apart while warm). A sturdier loaf would have more porcupine like fingers, all the better to pluck away while watching the game.
1 round (about 1 pound) loaf firm sourdough bread
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) salted or unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse or flaky salt, or 1/4 teaspoon table salt (if butter is unsalted)
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or two of red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup finely grated cheese (I used a mix of 2/3 firm aged cheeses — pecorino and asiago — and 1/3 fontina for meltiness)
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh herbs (I used 1/2 each rosemary and oregano; use more to taste)
1 tablespoon extra fresh herbs (such as chives or parsley) to finish (optional)
Heat oven to 350°F. Being careful not to cut through the bottom crust (i.e., leave slices attached), cut bread loaf into 1-inch slices in one direction, then perpendicular, forming porcupine-like bread fingers. Transfer to baking sheet or roasting pan. In a small saucepan or your microwave, combine butter, salt and garlic until butter is melted and sizzling. Pour over bread, making sure to separate any fingers leaning on each other to ensure the bread is evenly butter-soaked. Scatter with grated cheese, again making sure to get cheese all the way to the bottom crust too (helps finger separation, too) with a spoon. Sprinkle with first teaspoon of herbs. Cover dish with foil and bake loaf for 15 minutes, until warmed through. Remove foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until edges of loaf are toasty and cheese has melted. Scatter with any additional green herbs for garnish and serve warm.