Friday, December 20, 2013

Cranberry Crostini with Goat Cheese and Brie

As we approach Christmas day, I'd like to share with you one of my favorite recipes I've made in a while. Though I made these crostini for Thanksgiving, the sauce smelled just like Christmas! I thought it was the perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving and look forward to putting up Christmas decorations the next day.

These crostini are wonderfully simple to make, but look and taste fancy. I think the blend of spices was pretty much perfect. No single flavor took over the dish, but instead created a symphony of sweet, spiced, tart, rich, creamy, and crunchy.

I made some of mine with goat cheese and some with Brie, and I can't decide which I liked better. If doing small, two-bite bread slices from a skinny baguette, you're probably good either way. If doing larger slices from a fatter loaf, Brie might be a bit rich.

This recipe is very portable and easy to make ahead. Toast the bread slices and, once they're cool, store in a large zip bag until ready to serve. The cranberry sauce can be made days in advance and stored in the fridge. Just warm it up a bit in the microwave right before serving. I traveled with all my components separate, and let people assemble their own crostini. That way each person could choose which cheese(s) they wanted, the bread didn't get soggy from sitting too long, and any leftovers were easy to take home.

Speaking of leftovers, they do well on crackers, leftover turkey, leftover dinner rolls, and pretty much anything else you can think of. One of my friends says the cranberry sauce is good on pancakes, and I may or may not have made french toast topped with leftover cheeses and cranberry sauce.

Cranberry Crostini with Goat Cheese and(or) Brie

Adapted slightly from Cookie and Kate
Yield: 8 servings

1 baguette or small loaf of artisan whole grain bread, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
Olive oil
12-oz. bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice (or equal parts cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg)
Zest of 1/2 an orange
10 oz. (total) goat cheese, Brie, ricotta, or cream cheese, or some combination thereof - at room temperature

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush both sides of bread slices with olive oil, and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet or two. Lightly sprinkle with salt. Toast the bread in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden on both sides, turning them halfway. Set aside to cool, and turn off the oven.

Rinse the cranberries and throw out any bad ones; set aside. In a saucepan, whisk together the honey, water, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Bring to a gentle boil over medium to medium-high heat, whisking often. Add the cranberries and cook, stirring frequently, until cranberries have popped and the sauce is the consistency you like. The longer you cook it, the more saucy and less chunky it will get. Beware that the cranberries may try to attack you while they're popping. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest.

To assemble the crostini, spread each slice of bread with cheese, then top with cranberry sauce.

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