So part 2 of the recipes from last week’s catering extravaganza continues today with the Fennel & Prosciutto Crostini. This recipe could not be easier, but remains impressive enough just because the raw ingredients themselves are so special. Fennel is that huge fern looking thing at the grocery store that you’ve never bought before. You should. It’s delicious, albeit an acquired taste. Imagine if a liquorice mated with an onion. Well, no, don’t, because that sounds gross. But I can’t think of how else to describe it. Basically, it’s anise in a big crunchy form. I prefer it sliced thin and eaten raw, but there are many, many recipes for roasted or cooked fennel. For this I sliced it really thin with a handheld mandoline-type slicer (the Kobra) to get it paper thin. You can use a knife, or slice it with the correct attachment blade on the food processor.
Now in this recipe it’s all about flavor balance. You have the sharpness of the fennel combined with the salty, meaty prosciutto plus some lemon juice and zest for a bit of acid and then olive oil to bring it all together. I wouldn’t add too much salt, if any even, because if you let the prosciutto mingle with the other ingredients for a bit before serving, you have more than enough salty flavor. Plus, I always sprinkle the crostini with a bit of salt before toasting. Now I didn’t do this on the day, but I would recommend (if you like), spreading a bit of goat cheese on each piece of bread before topping it with the fennel mixture. It’s just one more element of balance that i think would go absolutely perfectly here.
The only other thing to keep in mind here is to separate out your prosciutto layers before you cut it, or even buy the little packet of diced prosciutto that they have now. If you stack them all up (like I did), they just stick together and you wind up with huge clumps of cured meat rather than separate ribbons. Silly me, trying to save time, realized this a little too late. Oh well. My mistake is your teachable moment.
Fennel and Prosciutto Crostini
1 head of fennel, stems removed
3 oz prosciutto
2 T Italian Parsley, minced
3 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling on bread
Spreadable goat cheese
1 baguette, sliced into 3/4″ pieces
Wash the fennel well and then slice paper thin across the layers. Put in a bowl. Slice the prosciutto into 1/4″ strips and keep separated so they do not clump together. Add to bowl. Zest the lemon over the fennel and prosciutto, and then squeeze both halves worth of juice into the bowl. Add the minced parsley and the olive oil and toss to combine everything. Cover and set aside.
Heat oven to 375 F. On a sheet pan, toss the slices of baguette with olive oil and salt, just enough to very lightly coat. Arrange the bread in a single layer and toast for about 5 minutes, until just crispy but not completely hardened. Let cool.
Spread a bit of goat cheese on each piece of toast, then top with the prosciutto and fennel mixture. Arrange on a platter and serve!
This should make enough for about 15 – 20 people.