We love brunching, we frequently find ourselves trying out new places in town (like here, here or here) or venturing to old standby’s (including here, here, here and here) when the world is still quiet and sleepy. Every now and then we are lucky enough to be invited over to friends’ houses where we can nibble bites and sip our coffee at a more leisurely pace. A few Sunday’s back, we were just in luck and threw together a spring onion and leek crostada with back bacon and ricotta…all thanks to our CSA box from that week.
When I started cooking the back bacon – I’ll explain what it that is in a minute…I didn’t really have a firm plan about when I was making and how it would take shape. When this happens, sometimes the end product is brilliant…and other times, well…that is when it’s time to stop by a bakery on your way over. This time, it was lovely! The spring onions and leeks from our CSA box were too beautiful to not use and they screamed to be the feature of a dish.
So back bacon is not made from pork belly – it is the center cut boneless pork loin and is much leaner and meatier than regular American bacon. It might also be labeled as Irish bacon. It can be tricky to find so regular, good ‘ole bacon will do just fine. We found it at a Fresh & Easy market, whose parent company is British…which explains why they carry it.
I started by washing the leeks and then slicing the leeks and the spring onions into very thin slices. The ramekin in the back holds none-other than rendered bacon fat. We always have it in the fridge and it keeps very well. Whenever you cook bacon, just strain the warm oil that was left in the pan and cool, then place in the fridge. Dare I say, it makes a decadent grilled cheese and it is very spreadable! I also prepared a short crust – something like you would use in a tart or a quiche – generally it is just flour, salt, cold butter chunks and a little ice water. Whenever you are making a pastry dough, it is important to let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you roll it out. Which is plenty of time to slice and cook your onions and leeks and cook the bacon. I sautéed the onions and leeks in butter and some of the bacon fat for about 5 or 6 minutes as I wanted them to sweat but not gain any color, and I seasoned them with fresh thyme. Turn the oven on to 350º so it has plenty of time to reheat.
Next, I rolled out the crust and placed it on a piece of parchment on a half-sheet pan. We had some ricotta left in the fridge which was perfect because this crostada needed something to hold it all together and work as a base. I thinned the ricotta just a bit with some heavy cream and of course, seasoned it with salt and pepper and a little more of the fresh thyme. Spread it evenly on the rolled out pastry leaving a 1-2 inch border on all sides and top with the back bacon slices leaving at least 1 piece to sprinkle on top. Next, spread the spring onions and leeks over the top and top with another sprinkle of salt.
Now, fold the pastry in towards the center starting on one edge and working your way around. A crostada is not a fancy food…so it does not need to be perfect! Top with the last slice of bacon either sliced or crumbled. Count yourself lucky if you manage to hide the last piece from your husband who is trying to sneak as many nibbles as he can blaming his actions on pure famine! Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and some of the onions and leeks have crisped on top.
Our CSA box had also arrived full of late harvest citrus and some fresh mint…so we brought those along with us as well. Start by slicing off the top and bottom of the orange and then slice the peel and as much of the pith off of all sides.
When serving citrus served like this, it is best to ‘supreme’ the fruit…I can’t figure out an easy way to write up instructions for you…but I found a great video on youtube that will show you exactly how to do it here. Next, chiffonade some mint and toss it with the segments of orange – very refreshing and easy to eat as there is no pith or seeds to pick out of your teeth.
The crostada is delicious warm or room temperature and was a delightful addition to the brunch buffet. It was crumbly and savory, with a nice oomph of onions and leeks!
What dishes have you made that turned out surprisingly well despite no real plan when you started? We are always on the lookout for new recipes that travel well…what are your favorites for a potluck brunch?