Wanna see your guests drool? Pancetta-Ricotta Crostini.January 19, 2007
Bacon, cheese, bread…. drool. Wait, don’t add drool.
But, honestly, it will be hard not to salivate over these particular hors d’ouerves. Just looking at images of these beauties is causing me to have to mop up my keyboard. One of the hazards of blogging about food, I guess.
It is a truism among all non-vegetarians that bacon — or in this case, pancetta — makes everything better. (Sort of like butter.) If that were a “theory” in science terms, this particular experiment would elevate it to a “law.” Like gravity.
I think these simple, bite-sized little offerings will be a hit at any party. They have a terrific crunch from the parmesan-seasoned toast points (or crostini), a tang from the bit of ricotta and basil filling, a sweetness from a carmelized onion and, of course, that unmistakable crispy, salty goodness of pancetta. Even guests with unfortunate overbites (such as myself), who normally avoid the embarrassment of attempting to chomp two-bite hors d’ouerves, will hazard taking discrete — oh, six or seven — helpings of this pancetta-ricotta crostini. (The trick? Try to jam the whole thing in at once and avoid conversation for the 30 seconds you’re noshing it. Feign fascination with the host’s house plants and photographs, and avoid all eye contact while your squirrel-like cheeks are filled with food. Works nearly every time. If interrupted, hold your hand up over your giant mouth and look apologetic. Repeat.)
The other great thing about these crostini? They make your house smell like good cooking… Come on: first caramelized onions and then frying bacon? Your guests will only have to be careful they don’t slip on their own drool. (Which really is the only drawback to this recipe.)
Since I’ve stolen the previous two recipes (spanakopita and potstickers) from my in-laws, it’s time I provide you one of my own. This dish has fairly simple ingredients and looks like what I imagine most passed hors d’ouerves look like in pop culture — something on toast.
These are fairly simple to make. Take pancetta, roll something yummy inside of it, quick fry, put it on tasty toast, and voila. The only difficult aspect of this dish is the frying. The pancetta has a tendency to open up on you. This isn’t a problem. You simply bring the toast to the pancetta and not the pancetta to the toast. This means place it upside down against the open pancetta and then use a spatula to give upward pressure when you turn it over. It’s like turning a cake out onto a plate.
Finally, I have an issue of terminology. On toast…en croute… crostini… toast point… I think there are about a million different ways to say, “I’m going to use this stale bread to make something pretty.” In fact, when naming this dish, I really only decided on crostini, not because it’s technically correct, but because I had ingredients that looked more Italian then anything else. So, if you’ve got a better name, please send it my way!
Pancetta-Ricotta Roll Crostini
Yield: 12 servings
1 baguette (12 half inch slices)
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
12 slices pancetta
1 large yellow onion (sliced)
1/2 lb ricotta
10 leafs fresh basil (chopped)
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1. In a large skillet over medium low heat, add the butter and the onion. Salt the onions liberally. Let cook for 30 min or until the onions are a golden color. Once they turn golden, remove the onions from heat and let cool briefly. Dice them until smaller pieces.
2. While the onions are cooking, you can make the crostini. Set your broiler to high. Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch slices. Lay them out on a cookie sheet and light drizzle with olive oil. Salt, pepper and grate on the cheese. Run under your broiler for about two minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown. In the alternative, if you have a toaster oven you can toast them in batches.
3. It’s time to make the filling. In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, caramelized onion, and basil. It’s important to taste. You will want to season the filling with salt and pepper, but you don’t want to over salt. The key is to remember it’s going to be wrapped in pancetta, which has a nice salty flavor; over salting will be like doubling the saltiness of each bite.
4. Set out your pancetta. Place about a tablespoon of filling in the center of each slice. Fold up two sides until they are about a quarter of the way in. Roll the remaining portion careful to keep the ends inside the roll. This is roughly like folding up a small burrito. Place on a plate or cookie sheet with seam side down until you are ready to cook.
5. Place a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Let the pan heat up for about 1 min. Add the rolls to the pan seam-side down. There is no need for oil because the pancetta will give off its own fat. Cook for about 2 min or until they are crisp. Using a pair of tongs to gently turn over. If they open up, don’t worry. Cook on the other side for another 2 minutes or until crisp. Once cooked, remove the pan from the heat.
6. The trick is transferring them now to the crostini. If the rolls didn’t open, you can simply use a spatula and place them seam-side down on the crostini. If they did open, an easy technique is to press the crostino (the singular form of crostini) against the top of the roll, and then roll them over using a spatula to apply upward pressure. Once completed, serve warm. Enjoy!