In this class we learned to use Humboldt Fog, a subtly tangy California goats’-milk cheese with a beautiful gray-blue line of ash running through it, is the perfect counterpoint to a mildly sweet chutney made from fresh pears. If you can’t find Humboldt Fog cheese, try Morbier, a French cow’s milk cheese, or a fresh California goats’-milk cheese. The chutney can be prepared a few days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the crostini.
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 lb. (1 kg) pears, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch (6-mm)
1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) pear brandy or cognac
1/3 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g) firmly packed brown sugar
Arugula for serving
Toasted baguette slices for serving
Humboldt Fog cheese for serving
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemon and orange in large strips. Juice the lemon and set aside 2 Tbs. lemon juice. Juice the orange and set aside 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) orange juice. Wrap the lemon and orange zest, rosemary, bay leaf and cinnamon stick in a piece of cheesecloth and tie closed with kitchen twine.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and pears and cook until the pears begin to release their juices, 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully pour in the brandy and deglaze pan, stirring with a wooden spoon, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by a third, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar, reserved orange juice, reserved lemon juice and the herb sachet. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the liquid has reduced, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chutney to a bowl and remove the sachet. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
To assemble the crostini, place a few arugula leaves on top of a baguette slice and top with 1 or 2 thin slices of cheese. Top with a dollop of chutney. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, arrange the crostini on a platter and serve. Makes about 2 dozen crostini.