Goat cheese and Wild Mushroom Crostini with Sweet Fennel Sausage

This is just an all-round great appetizer.  Think of this the next time you’re having people over, and want to serve something more impressive than chips and dips or a vegetable platter.  This truly is a restaurant quality production, bursting with flavor, and really easy to put together.

The most important aspect of this dish, in my opinion, is the idea and thought process behind it.  The inspiration.. The flavors themselves are great:  goat cheese, wild mushrooms, herbs, Italian fennel sausage, arugula… but it’s not the flavors that I’m concerned about.  This crostini was inspired by a great pizza I ate at a small restaurant on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood.  It was an unexpected treat, and once again, got me thinking in new directions.  We love pizzas and flatbread ‘artisan’ pies have been a trend for some time now.  Why not take the flavors of our favorite pizzas and give them a new platform?  Pizza dough is tough to make at home, and very few of us have ovens and equipment capable of making restaurant quality pizza.  But anyone can cut French bread into crostinis.  Anyone can buy good quality lavosh and add a bunch of things on top.  Take the great ingredient pairings we find on great pizzas and put them on thin sliced French bread roasted with olive oil.  It’s a great way to experience those remarkable flavors at home, at the mercy of your own hands.

And so here we are, a wonderful crostini idea inspired by a pizza that really shouldn’t be made at home.  It’s just a great classic pair prepared correctly.  How many times have my recipes relied on that formula?  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do, but moreover, I hope the thought process behind it inspires you and pushes you in a similar direction.

Goat cheese and Wild Mushroom Crostini with Sweet Fennel Sausage

Prep time:  15 minutes
Cook time:  35 minutes
Yield:  About 15 crostinis, depending on the yield of your bread

Ingredients:

1/2 cup goat cheese
3 tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 bunch chives, fine chop
3 cloves roasted garlic, smashed and chopped
2 cups sliced wild mushrooms, such as crimini, shitake, oyster, chantrelle, maitake, etc
1 large French baguette, sliced into 4in crostinis, about 1/2 thick
extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
3-4 links sweet fennel Italian sausage
2 cups wild rocket or baby arugula, washed
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Method:

In a medium sized sauce pot, cover the sausage links with cold water.  Bring to a simmer, simmer for 10 minutes, drain and rapidly cook the sausage.  Slice the sausage on a slight bias into 1/4in think slices. Reserve.

Heat an over to 400 degrees.

In a hot sauce pan, add the butter and about 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Saute the mushrooms until golden brown.  Season with salt and pepper.  When completely cooked through, remove the mushrooms from the pan and let drain on paper towels.

In a mixing bowl, mix the goat cheese, roasted garlic and chives well.  Reserve.

Lay the crostinis on an oiled sheet pan (spraying a sheet pan, or cookie pan with cooking spray works).  Drizzle the cristinis with a moderate amount of olive oil.  Lightly spread the goat cheese mix on the cristinis (using the back of a spoon is a great trick for doing this).  Evenly place the sausage, mushrooms and arugula on top.  If there is any left over goat cheese, place it on top as dollops.  Drizzle a little more olive on top and lightly season with black pepper.

Roast until the cristinis are crunchy and lightly browned on top, about 15 minutes.  Let cool slightly and serve right away.

Best served with chilled Riesling.

Enjoy.

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