I am not a big kitchen gear person, and yet, if I’m not careful, I can end up with a thousand knives and stirring spoons and pots and bowls on my counter after making the simplest dinner, resulting in some epic, soul-crushing clean-ups. Somewhere along the line, I decided that my little Victorinox serrated knife was the only knife for chopping tomatoes, and my 8-inch chef knife is the only one for slicing an avocado, when really, if I weren’t such a princess, the serrated knife could absolutely do both jobs on nights I’m prepping both. So since last March, when my kitchen (and yours, presumably) turned into an all-hours diner, I’ve been more mindful about what I’m pulling out of drawers and cabinets. If I’m tossing vegetables in olive oil in a large mixing bowl, can I just use that large bowl for serving the salad? That jam jar containing a tiny bit of leftover homemade vinaigrette — can’t I just build on what’s there to make a different vinaigrette instead of dirtying a whole new jar? Do I even need to rinse the cast-iron skillet after lunch since I’ll probably use it again at dinner?
As Glennon Doyle* would remind me: I CAN DO HARD THINGS!
That’s how I ended up discovering these croutons. After roasting chicken legs (which would be shredded and tossed into a salad), I was about to take out another sheet pan to bake some croutons when my new mindfulness kicked in. What if I just roasted the croutons on the same baking sheet, in the sheen of fat that dripped off the chicken? I’d save myself a pan to wash, and croutons baked in chicken fat? As my husband would say “It’s not like it’s gonna be bad.”
He was correct of course. It is here when I call up this sentence I wrote for Real Simple in 2002: “It’s just the thing to take a meal from ho-hum to how nice!” (In the margin, I got a “LOVE!” from my favorite editor, which is why I always remember it. Hi Tom!)
Note: The salad is the most basic supermarket-bagged romaine, grape tomatoes, avocado, chives, minced red onion, croutons, with a vegan Caesar dressing from my next book. (I realize vegan Caesar drizzled on chicken pieces makes exactly zero sense.) So you can see: There was a lot of pressure on those croutons to deliver, but they did.
*worth a New Yorker subscription to read Ariel Levy’s profile of Glennon Doyle this week