I adore simplicity and I think restraint, especially when it comes to cooking, is one of the most elegant things to practice. I haven’t always been this way. True story: I am a recovered snob. When I first started cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my entire family and our extended tables of friends, which was when I was in middle school, I insisted that everyone try my warm panzanella with sausage and autumnal vegetables. I threw a fit when my brother insist edit was just stuffing . . . which, in fact, it was. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve toned down the pretension and embraced the comfort of familiarity. I have also continued to tweak my stuffing recipe, as it’s my favorite item on the Thanksgiving menu, especially when the leftovers are crisped in a frying pan the next morning and topped with a runny fried egg.Small victory: Special holiday foods can be made any day of the year. This is something I make often, especially for friends when they visit for a weekend. It’s at once comforting and surprising. Another small victory: Leftover bread, an often-neglected ingredient, is the springboard to so many incredibly satisfying and flavorful dishes. I’veincluded more stale-bread ideas in the Spin-Offs.
4 thick slices relatively plain day-old bread, such as sourdough or a sesame loaf, torn into bite-size pieces
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz [230 g] sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 small green apple, halved, cored, and cut into1/2-in [12-mm] dice1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
Freshly ground black pepper
6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup [180 ml] chicken or vegetable stock
A small handful of finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 fried eggs
Preheat your oven to 400°F [200°C].
Put the bread on a baking sheet and toast, stirring now and then, until it is browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Once it’s good and hot, crumble the sausage into the pan and cook, stirring, until the meat is browned and its fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a plate, leaving the fat in the pan.
Turn the heat to medium-low; add the butter, apple, and onion to the pan; and season with a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring now and then,until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the sage and garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic has lost its raw edge and smells fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the chicken stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan, picking up any browned bits. Add the toasted bread and sausage,along with any liquid that accumulated on the sausage plate, and cook, stirring now and then, just until the bread is slightly softened, all of the liquid has evaporated, and it smells like Thanksgiving, 5 minutes or so. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve immediately, topped with the fried eggs.
To turn leftover bread into CROUTONS, simply tear up your loaf (any kind you have) into shaggy bite-size pieces,toss with olive oil, and season with kosher salt. Feel free to add fresh herbs (such as thyme, oregano, or rosemary), minced garlic, and/or grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 400°F [200°C] oven, stirring now and then, until browned and crisp.
To turn leftover bread into ROMESCO SAUCE, make croutons as instructed above and blend them in a food processor or a blender with roasted red peppers , toasted almonds or hazelnuts, a little minced garlic, olive oil, a splash of sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper. You want everything tobe well-combined and nearly smooth, but not super smooth—a little texture is nice. Serve with roasted onions or leeks or grilled fish or chicken. For about 1 cup [240ml] sauce, I’d recommend 1 cup [30 g] croutons, a single roasted pepper, a small handful of nuts, a small garlic clove, a healthy drizzle of oil, and about 1 tsp vinegar. But this is a relaxed thing—mix and match and taste and see what you like.
To turn leftover bread into THE EASIEST, “I-JUST-THREW-IT-TOGETHER! BREAD PUDDING,” start with dried-out slices of bread, preferably something soft and rich like challah or brioche or croissants. Tear into large pieces until you have enough to fill whatever size baking dish you want to use. Make a custard with equal amounts of eggs and dairy (preferably half-and-half, but whole milk is just fine, as is coconut milk or sour cream thinned with milk) and sweeten with whatever you like—brown sugar,granulated sugar, maple syrup. I usually do 1/2 cup [100g] sugar, more or less, for every 3 eggs. Add a pinch of salt and whatever other flavorings you’d like (vanilla,cinnamon, and bourbon come to mind) and soak everything in the dish while your oven heats to 350°F[180°C]. Feel free to add chopped nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, fresh berries, and/or sliced bananas. Bake the bread pudding until browned and puffy, about 45minutes, depending on the amount of pudding and the size of the baking dish.