recipe: green garlic and herb loaf

on saturday, kinfolk came to town for a little brunch.  while chad and i were brainstorming for a couple of days on a way to collaborate on a little contribution to the meal, he remembered something that margaret at manka's used to make.

when chad and liz were up in point reyes, for a period he baked only every other day, so margaret had to come up with creative ways to serve the bread on the second day.  she started making with this breathtakingly beautiful version of garlic bread, where she scored the entire loaf and then slathered it from the inside with garlic and herb butter.  after she baked it for about twenty minutes, she pulled it from the oven and jammed tons more fresh herbs into the slots before bringing the whole loaf to the table.  can you say yum?

so in an effort to do the memory justice, i got armfuls of green garlic that i stewed and mixed into cultured butter with piles of chopped herbs (including some crumbled fried sage) and lots of crunchy sel gris.  i wrapped the bread in foil, and at the brunch they heated it in the oven before serving.  we had to skip the herb salad part for logistical reasons, but i had prepared parsley leaves, long bits of chives, and chervil to toss with meyer lemon, good oil, a bit of parmesan and salt before stuffing into the bread.  i'd also considered just jamming a ton of fried rosemary and sage in there, but figured that the salad version was a bit more spring-y.

i made way too much of the garlic and herb butter, so i've been spreading it on my morning toast with a poached egg.  so, so, so tasty.

green garlic and herb loaf
  • a loaf of day- or days-old country bread (chad's loaves are about 3 pounds, so this is for a BIG country loaf.  you can make a lesser amount of the herb butter for a smaller loaf)
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter (my favorite butter right now is this vat-cultured butter from the sierra nevada cheese company) at room temperature
  • 6 stalks green garlic
  • 1 bunch parsley, picked
  • few sprigs of thyme, picked
  • handful of sage leaves
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 1 bunch chervil, picked (optional)
  • if you want, you can use arugula or wild arugula instead of herbs for the salad
  • parmesan
  • lemon or meyer lemon
  • good olive oil
  • crunchy salt
preheat oven to 400°F.

first, clean the green garlic by removing the tough outer layer of skin.  then halve it lengthwise and slice thinly.  rinse to remove all grit, then stew with some olive oil, water and a pinch of salt over low heat until tender, about 15 minutes.  let it cool for a few minutes.  

finely chop half of the parsley, half of the chives, and all of the thyme.  if you want to fry the sage, you can do it in a small pan of hot olive oil.  just heat the oil, then drop in the picked sage leaves and let them cook until they stop bubbling.  stir them around so that they cook evenly, then remove them from the oil, let them crisp up, and then crumble into little pieces.  you could also just chop the sage and add it to the other herbs.  

either in a large bowl or in a the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the soft butter, the stewed garlic, and the chopped herbs.  add a generous pinch of sel gris or other crunchy salt and mix until even.  

score the loaf of bread into thickish slices, but don't cut all the way down.  spread the butter evenly on the slices, doing your best to get down into the deepest parts of the loaf.  i just spread on one side of each slot.  wrap with foil.

when you're ready to bake, throw the bread into the oven for about 20 minutes, maybe longer, until the insides of the bread are steamy and hot.  for a little something extra, you can unwrap the loaf a bit and bake unwrapped for another five minutes or so to get a really nice crust on top.  

while the loaf is finishing up, combine the remaining parsley, the remaining chives, cut into one-inch lengths, and the chervil (if using) with some good salt, a squeeze of lemon or meyer lemon, and some good olive oil.  you can also shave some parmesan on there with a rasp or vegetable peeler.  toss to combine.  taste and adjust salt and acid as needed.

pull the bread from the oven and stuff the salad into the crevasses.  serve immediately.