Bruschetta with Dry-Cured Ham, Pears, and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Editor's Note: This is the best bruschetta recipe you've seen in a long time. There are no tomatoes in this Bruschetta with Dry-Cured Ham, Pears, and Parmigiano-Reggiano - instead it relies on the sharp flavors of parmesan cheese and the sweet taste of pears and honey to create an appetizer that bites back. A garlic rub on the baguette brings a little of that familiar Italian flavor to this easy bruschetta recipe. Just be sure to follow it up with an equally impressive main dish!
The best bruschetta is made with slightly stale, crunchy bread. Cut 12 slices off a large baguette or Italian bread, then leave them out on the counter all day. Once they’re a little stale, they’ll accept the garlic rub without tearing and will also have better tooth when toasted.
Makes12 appetizer bruschette, to hold 6 people an hour or so
OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Cocktail Party, Cooking for a date, Formal Dinner Party
Recipe CourseAppetizer, Hors D'oeuvre
Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free
Taste and TextureCrisp, Fruity, Garlicky, Salty, Savory, Sweet
Type of DishCanape/crostini
- Twelve somewhat stale, ½-inch-thick slices French or Italian bread
- 2 medium garlic cloves, each halved lengthwise
- ¼ cup toasted almond oil, walnut oil, or pecan oil (see Notes)
- 2 ripe Bartlett pears, cored and thinly sliced
- 3 ounces prosciutto crudo or jamon serrano, thinly sliced and then cut into 12 small pieces, each about ¼ ounce
- 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano (see Notes), shaved into thin strips with a vegetable peeler
- 6 tablespoons honey
Set the rack in the oven so that it’s 4 to 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the broiler.
Rub one side of each bread slice with the cut side of one of the garlic cloves. Don’t press down and tear the bread; rather, lightly rub the garlic onto the bread so that its oils get into the crumb. You’ll notice that the garlic slivers begin to wear down as you rub them on the bread, so use a new one when each gets a little long in the tooth.
Drizzle the garlicky side of each bread slice with 1 teaspoon oil.
Lay the slices, oil side up, on a large baking sheet or the broiler rack. Toast under the broiler until lightly brown and crunchy, 2 or 3 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet or broiler tray from the broiler. Place a few pear slices on each piece of bread; top with a prosciutto slice, draping it over the fruit. Sprinkle some shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano over each piece, then drizzle each bread slice with 1½ teaspoons honey.
Optional. Return the sheet or tray to the broiler and continue broiling just until the cheese melts, no more than 1 minute. Don’t let the cheese brown-just let it soften and run a bit. Remove the tray or sheet from the oven and transfer the bruschette to a wire rack to cool for a minute or so (if you leave them on the tray or sheet, they can get soft and gummy from condensing steam underneath).
Nuts oils come in two varieties: toasted and untoasted. The toasted versions are one of a pantry’s best-kept secrets. They add a rich, roasted flavor to salads, meats, and even vegetables, drizzled on while still hot. They are quite delicate, so use them as you would toasted sesame oil-at most just a few moments over the heat, lest they volatilize and lose all their aromatic richness. Toasted nut oils can go rancid quite quickly. Always smell before using; they can be stored in the refrigerator for several months.
Parmigiano-Reggiano (Italian, pahr-MIJ-ee-AHN-oh rehj-ee-AHN-oh) is a hard Italian cheese, made from part-skim, grass-fed, raw milk produced between April 1st and November 11th of any given year. Its hard, shell-like rind should be stamped with the cheese’s name and place of origin for authenticity. Buy a chunk from a larger wheel, a chunk with the rind still attached-but the thinnest part of rind possible to cut down on any extra cost. (Once most of the cheese has been grated away, that rind can be frozen in a sealed plastic bag for up to one year and then tossed into a bean or greens soup to make the broth richer.) Grate the cheese using a microplane, a cheese grater, or the small holes of a box grater.
The quality of the honey will directly affect this dish. Don’t just go for standard honey. What about chestnut, oak, or other tree varietals? Or a lovely floral honey, such as ones made from eucalyptus and star thistle in California?
Remember the rule of thumb for pears, as for almost all fruit: If it doesn’t smell like anything, chances are it won’t taste like anything. You can ripen pears in a sealed paper bag on the counter for a day or two, but they still won’t be as fragrant as ones that arrive at your store ripe because they’ve had a longer stay on the tree.
We went back and forth as to whether step 6 was necessary. As you can see, there it stands. If you’d like a fresher taste, by all means skip step 6. The bruschette will certainly be less like a ham-and-cheese and instead have a more fragrant, simple appeal. Still, you’ll miss out on all that cheesy gooeyness. Life is all about trade-offs.
2010 Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough