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The Humble Crostino, Revisited

February 16, 2010

- Merrill

Talking with the caterer this past weekend about the menu for our upcoming wedding, I was reminded of the great possibilities of one of the most humble of hors d'oeuvres: the crostino. The caterer suggested a few different kinds for our cocktail hour, including baked brie with a spicy pepper jelly and seared Muscovy duck breast with pear and apple chutney. These savory-sweet combinations made me think of two crowd-pleasing crostini I used to make all the time back when I worked as a caterer -- each starts with a savory base (toasted goat cheese or seared duck breast) and utilizes the same tart-sweet condiment for contrast: a simple red onion jam with red wine and sherry vinegar.

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I posted the toasted goat cheese crostini to my profile back when we first started food52 and Amanda and I wanted give the recipe database a boost with some of our favorites, but when I did that, I hadn't made the crostini in at least five years. Inspired by this weekend's wedding planning marathon, I plan to change that. Below is the second recipe, with seared duck breast and red onion jam, which I haven't yet posted to my profile but which is no less delicious.

Crostini with Duck Breast and Red Onion Jam

Makes about 30 crostini

For the red onion jam:

  • 2 medium red onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
1. In a large, covered pan over low heat, cook the onions, butter, sugar, salt and pepper to taste, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and slightly caramelized, about 30 minutes. Add the wine and vinegar and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 20 more minutes. Cool to room temperature before using. (Makes about 2 cups.)
For the crostini:
  • 1 long, slender baguette
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the baguette on the diagonal into 1/4-inch slices and arrange them on a baking sheet. Brush the slices lightly with olive oil and bake until lightly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Do not overbake, or the crostini will be too hard.
For the duck:
  • 2 large duck breasts, fat on
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
1. Using a very sharp knife, score the fat on each of the duck breasts and halve each breast lengthwise. Heat a large, heavy stainless steel or cast iron pan over medium-high heat, adding the vegetable oil as soon as it is hot. Sprinkle each piece of duck generously with salt and gently place in the pan, fat side down. Sauté until the fat is golden brown, about 4 minutes, and then continue to cook, turning every minute or so to sear each side of the meat, until the duck is medium to medium rare, about 7 to 9 minutes total. Remove from the pan and let it rest until it is no longer hot.
2. To assemble, slice each piece of duck into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange a slice on top of each of the crostini and top with a small dab of the onion jam. Serve immediately.
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TheWimpyVegetarian February 17, 2010
We're having weekend guests in the mountains this weekend and this looks like the perfect appetizer the first night! Some recipes when you first see them, you just know you're going to love them. This is one of them. Thanks!
Merrill S. February 17, 2010
You're welcome! Let me know how they turn out.
TheWimpyVegetarian February 25, 2010
It was absolutely delicious!! I had to make a couple changes though because we're up in the mountains for 10 days and thelocal stores didn't have duck. So I substituted pork spare ribs basted with a mixture of BBQ sauce, Hoisin and ketchup. I sliced the meat off the ribs, laid them on the crostini (and when I ran out of French bread I switched to some toasted garlic naan I had), topped with your wonderful onion jam with a dollop of gorgonzola. Everyone just loved them. I have some gluten-free friends and plan to make this again wrapped in lettuce for them. Great appetizer with some heft to it. Thanks!
amysarah February 17, 2010
This looks delicious. I often make a similar - but slightly easier - crostino(i) topping: a smear of good, creamy gorgonzola dolce, with a jam of onions caramelized like yours, only with balsamic instead of sherry vinegar. The same topping works well on pizza - cut into small pieces to have with cocktails (if I'm feeling especially lazy, I just use purchased dough too.) And I always make an excess of the onions, because it's good on virtually everything, short of chocolate cake (maybe.)
Merrill S. February 17, 2010
Yum, yum, yum. Thanks for the gorgonzola dolce tip!
thirschfeld February 17, 2010
I really like red onion jam, used to use it on roast beef sandwiches. I learned to add some good grenedine to it instead of sugar.
Merrill S. February 17, 2010
Very interesting! I'll have to try it with grenadine sometime.
shayma February 17, 2010
this looks gorgeous, merrill. if one used walla walla onions would it be too sweet? i was just curious about the choice of red onion (one of my faves, too!). ps this is the best time- when youre doing all your 'wedmin'!
Merrill S. February 17, 2010
I think any type of onion would work -- I just happen to like the color of red onions for this. And thanks for allowing me to run my wedding plans by you all! You're a great support system.
Berna February 16, 2010
Best of luck to you, Merrill!
Merrill S. February 16, 2010
Thank you!
AntoniaJames February 16, 2010
I think the reference to "this weekend" was to the marathon planning session of the weekend that just passed . . . . but thinking about brides-to-be are actually doing, a week before their weddings, I'm reminded of my own wedding, which occurred five days after my corporate tax exam during my third year of law school (which exam was the fifth exam in seven days!!) Actually, after all that, I was the most relaxed bride who ever got married. Attending to the many last minute details of a wedding was infinitely easier than the exams. ;o)
Merrill S. February 16, 2010
You're right, AntoniaJames! Poor wording choice on my part.
coffeefoodwrite February 16, 2010
A new way to use duck! This looks absolutely delicious. Can't wait to try it. And all the best to you for your wedding this weekend!
Merrill S. February 16, 2010
Thank you so much for your well wishes, but the wedding isn't until August. Minor miscommunication (see below).
Lizthechef February 16, 2010
You're getting married this weekend and posting recipes on Tuesday?! You are one well-organized bride-to-be...So many of us send best wishes for a beautiful day!
Merrill S. February 16, 2010
I wish I could be that well-organized! The wedding is in August -- planning session was this past weekend.
aargersi February 16, 2010
WOW that wedding came together FAST! Hmm ... perhaps a post wedding Food52 virtual shower is in order ...

and this recipe looks awesome
Merrill S. February 16, 2010
Still another six months to go... (see comment below). But thanks for the virtual shower suggestion! I'm flattered.
mariaraynal February 16, 2010
Wow, your wedding is this weekend!?! Congratulations and enjoy! Very exciting. Oh, and the recipe is lovely, too. : )
Merrill S. February 16, 2010
Oops! No, the wedding isn't until August -- poor choice of words. I meant that we met with the caterer this PAST weekend to plan.
Culinista A. February 16, 2010
Yum!! Congratulations on the wedding!
Merrill S. February 16, 2010
djgibboni February 16, 2010
Bravissima, Merrill, in your use of the proper singular, "crostino." I get very tired with so much poorly used Italian, in particular the use of Italian plurals as English singulars: 1 panini, 2 paninis, and so on!
Holly February 16, 2010
I think Italian plural errors are international. I've definitely seen one panini down here in Argentina. I guess if it doesn't have an S at the end, people assume it's singular?
Merrill S. February 16, 2010
It's actually one of my pet peeves too -- spent a semester in Italy during college!
pierino February 17, 2010
I agree with djgibboni on this one as well. It's like saying sandwiches's. My mother always used to add a possesive apostrophe S to the name of any Italian restaurant even if it wasn't somebody's name.
shayma February 17, 2010
i agree with pierino and djgibboni, however, i have gotten looks from people who feel i am being really pretentious when i say cappuccini or i want a panino. or if i say Roma or Milano, same looks. grrrrrrr
Merrill S. February 17, 2010
I know, don't you hate that? Why do so many shun linguistic accuracy, rather than salute it? Although this does make me think of Giada, who really likes to get in there and roll those r's whenever she comes to an Italian word. I'll admit, it sometimes makes me giggle a little.