I’ve recently taken some time off from blogging while working on some other projects and just being busy in general over the holidays; however, I think I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. Recently, my wife and I ate at Bill and Giuliana Rancic’s Italian restaurant in downtown Chicago called RPM (www.rpmitalian.com). All of the food is fantastic and the atmosphere is great but our “Truffled Garlic Bread” appetizer really stood out as amazing. So, I wanted to see how hard it would be to duplicate…. and after a few attempts, I think I’ve come up with a version that’s really close to the original and pretty easy to pull off in the kitchen.
First, I think the key (as is with many dishes) is to use fresh ingredients. Sure, you can probably make this work with pre-grated parmesan cheese and garlic seasonings, but I would highly recommend buying a fresh block of parmesan cheese from your local deli, fresh garlic and some basil. Pictured below is everything I used (minus the olive oil, which isn’t in the picture).
I started by preheating the oven to 375. I then heated up some olive oil on low heat while separating the garlic cloves and removing all of the outer papery layers. I used about 1.5 cups of olive oil and an entire bulb of garlic. I don’t think you can really use too much garlic but I can see how you might not want to waste your olive oil. It can be expensive, depending on the brand so you may want to adjust the amount of olive oil you use based on how much bread you are making.
I then placed the garlic cloves in the pan of olive oil (still on low heat) and let them cook while prepping other stuff. At this point, I also added a couple teaspoons of salt too. I chose olive oil because I didn’t want to buy truffle oil; however, I’m sure truffle oil would work great too. Most modern truffle oils are not made with real truffles and consist of mostly an olive oil base. I would just suggest staying away from cheap olive oil. I’ve tried a few and some of them have some very interesting tastes that are not particularly pleasant.
While my olive oil and garlic were on the stove, I took my fresh block of parmesan cheese and finely grated it using a food processor. It’s hard to compare fresh parmesan cheese to pre-grated parmesan cheese from a bag or a can.
Of course you can do this with a hand grater or buy pre-grated cheese but I highly recommend buying a fresh block of cheese from your local deli. There really is no comparison. My finely grated cheese looked like this:
I then took the bread loaves and cut them in half (pictured below). We used freshly baked French bread, but I’m sure other types of bread would work too. I think the key with the bread is ensuring that it isn’t too thick once you’ve cut it in half. The olive oil must get absorbed into the bread to soften it – so if the bread is too thick then this doesn’t happen easily and it’s also difficult to bite into a thicker cut of bread. So, just be conscious of the thickness in particular as it relates to how much oil needs to be absorbed.
By now, your olive oil should have absorbed much of the flavors from the fresh garlic. I didn’t use any of the actual garlic on the bread, but you can if you want. You’ll notice below that a few little pieces of garlic fell on to the bread. I’m not a huge fan of biting into garlic and I do not think there was actual garlic on RPM’s bread – just garlic flavor that had been fused into their truffle oil.
I used a ladle and poured the warm olive oil all over the bread, liberally. If you run out of garlic olive oil, you can supplement with more olive oil. I’ve had to do this before and it wasn’t a big deal. In addition to the flavor aspect, the oil serves as a way to soften the bread – so remember: don’t be stingy using it.
I then placed the bread in the oven for about 10 minutes to heat it (without the cheese). Immediately after removing it from the oven, I topped it with the cheese and basil and returned it to the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. If you put the cheese on first, it seems to cook the cheese and somewhat alters the taste and presentation of the dish. The trick is trying to get really warm, soft bread without (over) cooking the cheese. There could be a better way, but this seems to work for me – but feel free to experiment.
After removing from the oven, I cut the bread and quickly served it before it had a chance to cool down too much. My version ended up looking like this: