Appetizers are featured in today’s column. A favorite for a large party, is a he-man stuffed French bread appetizer. It is especially good for any gathering — large or small. For a small gathering use a half loaf of French bread and a whole for the large party.
Stuffed French bread is quickly and easily assembled. To me, it’s definitely reminiscent of pizza. It’s the perfect answer for a party appetizer or coupled with a green salad it’s a festive and enjoyable dinner.
To make stuffed French bread slice a loaf of French bread horizontally. To make the long length easier to handle, slice each half of the French bread into two sections. One loaf of French bread makes four parts. Hollow out the bread with your fingers leaving the crust and about a ¼ inch of bread remaining. Tear or cut the bread pieces hollowed into bite size chunks. Put the bread chunks into a large bowl.
This part of the recipe is where the creativity and fun begins. Add the amount and type of ingredients that you would normally have on a favorite pizza. I usually add 1 to 2 cups of each of the following: cheese (I use sharp Cheddar or Monterey jack), mushrooms, olives and onions. Then I add 2 to 4 cloves minced garlic, a small amount of fresh red pepper (if I have one on hand) for color and 1 small can diced green chilies, which adds superior flavor for a vegetarian style. To delight the meat eaters, add 2 cups cooked diced Italian sausage. Add more or less of these ingredients to your taste and, of course, feel free to add other favorite ingredients not included here.
Mix all the ingredients together and moisten with 1 egg and approximately ¼ cup mayonnaise, enough so that the bread-vegetable mixture is cohesive. With clean hands, scoop the stuffing mixture and gently mound it back into the hollowed French bread shells. Place the stuffed French bread on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until the filling is hot and bubbly and the edges of the bread are toasted. Slice the stuffed French bread crosswise (as you would garlic bread) into individual slices and serve.
If you should end up with unused French bread, as sometimes happens to me, an excellent recipe for using left-over French bread is crostini.
What is crostini? Crostini is toasted bread, which you can top with a variety of savory spreads. Although a chicken liver spread is traditional, any favorite homemade or store-bought spread is delightful. Crostini can be made from any type of bread. However, the type of bread that is the tastiest is thinly sliced bread that is lightly brushed with olive oil before toasting.
Crostini — Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice good store-bought Italian or French bread into 1/4-inch slices. Place on a baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Brushing the sliced bread with flavored oil will result in even tastier crostini. Bake the slices until the edges are golden and centers are crisp, about 10 minutes. One loaf of bread makes about 4 dozen crostini. Crostini topping should be spreadable.
Once, I made bite-size crostini sliced from herb breadsticks. They were the perfect accompaniment for a crab spread and being bite-size no one felt like they over ate the appetizer. Crostini can be made the day before to ease last-minute party jitters. However, don’t assemble them with a spread more than a half-hour in advance or they might become soggy.