Photo by Elizabeth Coetzee, Food styling by Micah Marie Morton
Fire crackers are like bait to me at any party. Wherever a bowl of this Southern specialty is present, you will reliably find me standing no more than a few feet away. Usually starting with saltine crackers, flavored with pantry ingredients like powdered ranch dressing mix and chile flakes, this party food is low fuss and low-cost. I usually have everything I need at home already, so I can make a batch without having to run to the store.
The not-so-secret ingredient
My favorite new rendition of the classic snack was born in that spirit of shopping one’s own kitchen. You see, the back of my refrigerator is a menagerie of glass jars and deli containers filled with breadcrumbs, curry pastes, and the dregs of condiments. Taken as a whole, it’s a bit of a jumble, but any jar could be that one touch that makes all the difference in a recipe. Especially if that jar holds the leftover oil from a tin or jar of anchovies.
Leftover oil like this is pure flavor that you’ve already paid for. It’s my sneaky secret weapon for a great tuna salad and extra-savory pasta sauce. But now the main reason I’ll never throw away that oil is the way that it Caesar-izes my favorite party snack.
Caesar Fire Crackers omit the ranch powder and instead look to another favorite salad treatment, offering up crunchy bites that are umami-blasted with anchovy oil, Dijon mustard, black pepper, and Parmesan. The recipe is simple and scalable, not to mention versatile: Use your favorite crackers (Ritz work well too!) and adjust the seasonings to suit your taste, and you’ve got a snack you’ll be proud to take anywhere. Tote them to an office potluck or show them off at your neighbor’s Super Bowl throwdown—you know every Super Bowl party has a winner, and with these crackers in tow, it could very well be you.
Caesar crackers, step by step
In addition to how crunchy and craveable these crackers are, what I love best about them is how simple they are to prepare. In a large zippered storage bag, you’ll combine black pepper, garlic powder, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, and the oil from a tin or jar of anchovies. If you don’t have enough anchovy oil around, you can blend in some vegetable oil, or substitute olive oil. You can also mix in another flavored oil that makes sense in a Caesar dressing—lemon oil or roasted garlic oil, for example. Add finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus the crackers. Saltines are perfect for this recipe because they soak up all the seasoned oil without getting soggy, whereas water crackers or seedy crispbread won’t have quite the same absorbency. Seal the bag and mix gently, careful not to crush the crackers, turning the bag over and around to combine.
You’ll let the crackers hang out in the seasoned oil for at least two hours or up to overnight in the fridge, turning occasionally to evenly distribute the seasonings. Next, you’ll pop the crackers in a low oven on parchment-lined baking sheets, just until golden and toasty, then shower with a bit more freshly ground black pepper and grated parm.
Congrats, you’ve got a party trick now
Even though I’m a classically trained chef with years of experience cooking professionally, my mind used to go blank when someone invited me to a potluck. But that potluck anxiety is safely behind me now that I know I’m never more than a couple hours away from a batch of Caesar Crackers, and sometimes I even make them in advance when I know that people might come over sometime soon. Stored in the fridge, they last more than a week; allow them to come up to room temperature before serving.
I put them in a bowl next to my charcuterie board or a tin or two of fish from the pantry (thus starting the cycle of anchovy oil all over again!), but you can also serve them with smoked trout dip or pack them up in a cute tin for an easy host gift.
Caesar Fire CrackersStephanie Ganz
Originally Appeared on Epicurious
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