Talking with the caterer 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.
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. —Merrill Stubbs
about 30 crostini
For the red onion jam
medium red onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
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 and duck
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.
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.
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.