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~ For Fall: Apple Butter, Caramelized Onion 'n Apple, Spanish Iberico Pork Secreto & Manchego Crostini ~

IMG_5177Here we are at the end of October -- the season of short days and long nights.  In Happy Valley (Central PA), brisk and chilly has turned to windy and cold, and, the light morning dew has turned to heavy frost.  Steaming hot, comforting, hearty fare is on my dinner table almost every evening.  Even appetizers like crostini are 'bigger' -- more like a small meal than a light snack! 

IMG_5018As I mentioned in my last blog post ~ Pan-Seared Iberico Pork Secreto (Secret) ~, October is/has been National Pork Month.  I typically don't get involved with the daily, weekly or monthly food holidays (created by American manufacturers to give their industry a boost), but, I do love pork and I did go hog wild this October, concentrating on these three recipes for thin cut chops and pork:  

~ The Art of Frying the Perfect "Skinny" Pork Chop ~, and, ~ Smothered with Love:  Pork Chops w/Onion Gravy ~.  To get all three recipes, just click on the Related Article links below!     

IMG_5174October here in Happy Valley is also the height of college football season, more specifically, Penn State football.  Depending on the circumstances, it is not unusual for us to entertain friends on a Friday evening before the game, at a Saturday tailgate for the game, or, on a Sunday the day after. This hearty, flavor-packed, manly appetizer, is one of my husband's favorites.  Pork is not usually associated with crostini, but, over the years, I've found pork tenderloin to be a much tastier alternative than chicken for these beloved snacks.  I am using my leftover pan-seared Iberico pork to make these today, but, feel free to substitute pork tenderloin without compromise!

IbericoA bit about Iberico pork:  It comes from the Iberico breed of pig, known a "black-footed pig", which is raised almost exclusively in Spain.  The pigs roam in pastures and oak groves, feasting on natural grass, herbs and LOTS of acorns.  Acorns are rich in oleic acid, the same found in olive oil, and because pigs do not convert fat, the oleic component makes their highly-marbled, rosy, melt-in-your mouth meat, high in mono-unsaturated fat.

Note:  To get a lot more Iberico pork facts and information, you can read my post from last year, ~ The New Meaning of "Outstanding":  Iberico Pork ~, by clicking in Categories 3, 10, 16 or 21!

IMG_4881Before making the crostini (the toasts) and pan-searing the pork, one component needs to be prepared first:  ~ Sweet (& Savory) Caramelized Onions and Apples ~. These are easy to make, and, you can prepare them 3-4 days in advance too.  Click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe!

One more minor foodie detail: People always ask me this question, so, before we proceed any farther with this post, allow me to take just a moment to answer it:

What is the difference between bruschetta and crostini?

PICT1438Bruschetta (pronounced broo-skeh-tah) means "oiled slice" in Italian and comes from the word "bruscare" (pronounced broo-scar-ay), which means "to roast over coals".  Bruschetta is the original garlic toast.  Its preparation is so simple, it really requires no formal instructions.  Traditionally, large, thick slices of firm crusty bread are toasted over an open wood fire, rubbed with plenty of fresh garlic while they are still warm, generously drizzled with the finest olive oil available, sprinkled with salt and pepper, then served warm. They are classically topped with fresh basil, tomatoes, and buffalo-milk mozzarella, but, when paper-thin slices of Italian meats, cheeses and vegetables (grilled, roasted or marinated) are added, they can actually turn into a pretty hearty knife-and-fork meal!

Crostini in Italian simply means "toast", which means it doesn't always end up drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic.  Just like bruschetta, crostini are topped with any number of savory toppings.  Unlike bruschetta, they are usually made using smaller, long and thin-shaped bread, like a baguette or a batard.  Crostini are always served as a snack or an appetizer before a meal, or, an accompaniment to the meal.  In the case of both bruschetta and crostini, any size, color or flavor of bread can be used, but, it must be of a firm texture and have a good crust!

It's time to make the toasts!

PICT1404For the toasts I'm making today, I am using 2, 12-ounce batards and 2 sticks of salted butter, at room temperature, the softer the better.

A French batard is first cousin to the baguette.  Batards are shorter than baguettes and a bit plumper, which gives my crostini the perfect surface area for any and all toppings.

PICT1405~ Step 1.  To prepare the toasts, cut each batard into approximately 20, 1/2"-thick slices.

Place the bread slices, in a single layer, on 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment paper.


Note:  I was entertaining yesterday, so I made quite a few.  Cut the recipe in half for a smaller amount!

~ Step 2.  Preheat the broiler and position the oven rack 7"-8" underneath it.

Spread an even layer of softened butter on each slice of bread (on the top side only).






~ Step 3.  Place pan of bread slices into preheated broiler.  Broil until the slices are lightly browned and bubbly on the first side, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.






~ Step 4.  Remove from oven and flip slices over.  Return to broiler and continue to broil until slices are browned on the second side, 1 1/2-2 minutes.  Note:  The second sides do not get buttered.

Remove from oven and transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.  In the case of this recipe (because toasts will be returned to the broiler after they are topped), they can be prepared 1-2 days in advance of serving.  Store in an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap.

It's time to pan-sear the pork & make the crostini!

PICT2692For every 1 batard or 20 crostini:

20 toasts, prepared as directed above, from 1, 12-ounce batard

2  14-16-ounce Iberico pork secreto 'steaks', at room temperature, pork tenderloin may be substituted

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

4  tablespoons butter, and,  4 tablespoons olive oil

IMG_51351  cup apple butter + 1/2 cup additional apple butter for garnishing finished crostini

1  cup caramelized onions and apples, prepared as directed in recipe

1 cup grated Manchego (mahn-CHAY-goh) cheese (Note: This is Spain's most famous cheese and so named because it was originaly made exclusively with the milk from Manchego sheep that grazed the plains of La Mancha.  It is sometimes called the cheese of Don Quixote!)

IMG_5055~ Step 1.  Rinse the pork, pat it dry, and season the top with the sea salt and peppercorn blend.

~ Step 2.  In a 12" skillet, place the butter and olive oil over medium heat, until the butter is melted. Increase heat to medium-high to not quite scorching hot.  Add the pork, seasoned side down, season the unseasoned side with S&P and saute until first sides are golden IMG_5064brown, about 2 minutes.

... DO NOT OVERCOOK THIS PORK!!!  Error on the side of undercooking it.

IMG_5060Note:  If you have one of those fine mesh spatter shields, use it.  Why?  If your pork isn't spattering, you're heat isn't hot enough.

IMG_5123~ Step 3.  Flip the pork over and cook it on the second side until golden, about 2 more minutes.

IMG_5089~ Step 4. Remove from heat, place the pork on a cutting board and allow to rest, about 5 minutes, prior to:

Holding your chef's knife at a 30 degree angle, thinly slice the pork.  I like it sliced less than 1/4" thick.

IMG_1177 IMG_1164~ Step 5. Spread the 1 cup of apple butter evenly atop the toasts.  Reserve the remaining 1/2 cup of apple butter for topping the finished crostini.

~ Step 6.  Distribute the 1 cup of caramelized onions and apples over the apple butter on each toast.

IMG_5140~ Step 7.  Distribute the sliced pork on top of the crostini.  Pile it high, don't pack it down.

IMG_5158~ Step 8. Distribute the cheese on top of the meat.  Pile it even higher and don't pack it down! Note:  The lighter and airier you assemble these, the more succulent they are going to be!

IMG_5168~ Step 9. One pan at a time, broil until cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Watch carefully as the Manchego can and will go from browned to burned quickly.

Transfer to a warmed platter and serve immediately (they are best hot out of the oven or warm) with a dollop of the remaining apple butter garnishing the top of each:

Do not hesitate, pick one up and take a bite!

IMG_5202And another and another and so on... until it's gone!

IMG_5210For Fall:  Apple Butter, Caramelized Onion 'n Apple, Spanish Iberico Pork  Secreto & Manchego Crostini:  Recipe yields 20-40 appetizers.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; serrated bread knife; 1-2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; 1-2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" cooling racks; parchment paper; 12" skillet; chef's knife; cheese grater 

PICT1545Cook's Note:  For another scrumptious crostini recipe, and, the perfect vegetarian compliment to today's meaty, manly one, ~ Mediterranean-Style Roasted Vegetable Crostini ~, can be found in Categories 1 or 14!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


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