Crost my heart

January 2, 2014

All ready for your next appetizer.

All ready for your next appetizer.

Consider the humble crostini.

With a bag of these little sweeties in your freezer, you’re only moments away from an appetizer, whether it’s unexpected guests showing up and you have to feed them something so they don’t drink all the liquor in your liquor cabinet before you can get dinner served, or when you want a munchy with your wine for dinner because you just don’t freakin’ feel like cooking.

They’re easy to make, easy to store, easy to top. So here’s how.

Go to the grocery and check out the baguettes. Regular French bread is OK, but most stores with an in-house bakery will have the little small baguettes, maybe two inches across and an inch and half high. Even better, if your grocery has an in-store bakery, it’ll have the “Ooops! We baked too much!” day-old shelf, and you can get them there for 99 cents apiece. Doesn’t matter if they’re day old, as you’re going to crisp them up anyway.

Get you a couple of these loaves, and cut them about 1/2 inch thick. Lay the slices out side by side on a cookie sheet. I cover mine with foil because I’d just as soon not have to wash it if I can keep from it.

Garlic, olive oil and butter. Vampires, begone!

Garlic, olive oil and butter. Vampires, begone!

Then go get you a couple of big spoonsful of the garlic confit you have in your fridge. If you do not have garlic confit in your fridge, you obviously have not read this blog long enough, because? You should. It’s one of the two greatest time- and menu-savers in the world, the other being caramelized onions in the freezer. If you have not done both of these things, you need to not let too much more time pass before you do.

Anyway, get your confited garlic with its attendant glop of solidified olive oil out of the jug in the fridge, put it in a small mixing bowl, and throw in a stick of butter. If you have about half a cup of garlic/oil and a stick of butter, that’s about the right proportion, and will handle about three cookie sheets of crostini.

Stash that in the microwave and nuke it until everything’s melted. Then take your stick blender — and if you don’t have one of these, why not? Cough up $20 and get you one; they’re worth it — and puree the lumps of soft garlic.

You will now have a nice garlic oil/butter combo that smells just heavenly.

Now you fetch out one of your most technical of kitchen tools — the 1.5-inch paintbrush. The 99-cent-at-WalMart variety.  (Those you don’t feel bad about throwing away when they’ve been used one too many times.) Using it to stir the semi-emulsion frequently, dab each slice of bread with a healthy coating of garlic oil/butter.

You can add salt and pepper if you are so inclined. I don’t bother.

Run the sheets in the oven at 400 for about 10 minutes, checking frequently after about 5-7. These babies can go from barely golden to burnt, real quick-like. You want to pull them just past barely golden. Let them cool a bit, and dump them onto a towel if you need to re-use the cookie sheet; if not, let them sit until they’re stone-cold. Then collect them in a big Zip-loc, stash them in the freezer, and the hard part of hors d’ouevres is done.

Potential toppings: Chopped tomatoes, garlic, scallions or chives, for bruschetta; goat cheese and fig-and-olive tapenade; a relish of olives and artichoke hearts in red wine and olive oil with oregano, with some feta cheese; cream cheese with any sweet-hot or sweet-savory topping (bacon jam, anyone?); a schmear of a lovely soft cheese like fromage d’affinois topped with a dab of fig jam; some liver pate, or pork rillette, or any other meat-based spread; some soft cheese and some really good pastrami. That’s the number of combos I thought up in the time it took me to type that paragraph (and I type fast). Don’t let it limit you. There’s not much that wouldn’t be great on these little lovelies.

So you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em make you up a bag of these and stow ’em in your freezer. You’ll thank me when the preacher shows up unexpectedly and you have to feed him.

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