I recently received a sample from Grandpa’s Gluten-Free Gourmet of their Garlic Parmesan Encrusting Mix. Now, I know what you are probably thinking – so what, it’s just breadcrumbs. Yes, I too had pretty much the same reaction but I am always on the lookout for new gluten-free items from small manufacturers – not to mention the fact that if you fry pretty much anything I will eat it. Isn’t everything better fried?
The one thing that piqued my interest was the fact that these are seasoned bread crumbs – which can sometimes be a challenge to find. Every time my mother (who is a phenomenal Italian cook) visits it usually involves a trip the market and the hunt begins for bread crumbs that will meet her muster. More often than not it also requires her buying plain breadcrumbs and seasoning them herself and in the end the texture of the crumbs leaves her disappointed.
After a recent visit from Mom, Grandpa’s Encrusting Mix arrived and I happened to have an eggplant lying around (don’t ask) and some gluten-free meatballs that Mom had made before leaving. So what’s a guy to do? That’s right, make a meatball and eggplant Parmesan. Okay, Grandpa’s let’s see what you’ve got.
The first thing I noticed is that the bag is actually a decent size. More often than not I have to buy two bags of breadcrumbs because for some reason gluten-free manufacturers think that Celiacs must somehow use less breadcrumbs than non-Celiacs. I am often left with half of a bag that usually ends up in the cupboard and, by the time I am ready to use it (read remember it is even there), it’s usually gone off and goes in the garbage. My bag of Grandpa’s was the perfect amount for one rather large eggplant and I used every last crumb up.
The other thing you’ll immediately notice is the smell. They actually smell like the seasoned breadcrumbs from my pre-Celiac diagnosis days. The consistency is also noteworthy. If you are used to the super-fine “dust” that other brands call bread crumbs get ready for a surprise – these actually have texture – but how would they stand-up to the old egg bath and frying?
After a quick dip and flip in the egg bath I coated both sides with Grandpa’s mix. I was amazed at how well the crumbs took to the eggplant with just a little bit of patting they were in and out in seconds and into the frying pan – but would it stick? Absolutely. After a few minutes on one-side the moment of truth came – the all important flip. When I flipped, a golden brown crust was revealed that was truly remarkable. Normally with other breadcrumbs I have to keep flipping to prevent them from burning. Not so with Grandpa’s – it was toss them in, flip, and take them out. Best of all the perfect golden brown color was something that I had not seen in a long while.
Of course I just couldn’t wait to try it so kept nibbling on the freshly fried pieces when a new batch hit the oil. The taste was completely over the top. As you bite in you get that wonderful crunchy texture and immediately notice the subtle saltiness of the cheese paired perfectly with the slight kick of garlic and rounded out with mild Italian spices.