A Bar Bricco Entertaining Menu

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Chefs Daniel Costa and Micah Joffe make spuntini for Christmas.

Before Bar Bricco opened no one really talked about spuntini. Appies maybe, or if it was part of a formal dinner, hors d’oeuvres, but not spuntini. Like many Italian words that have migrated to English, spuntini is more of a concept, or a way of eating, than just a dish. “Let’s go for spuntini at Bar Bricco” is always a most welcome invitation. Eating little bites served throughout the evening, drinking some wine, enjoying friends— exactly how we want to spend the holidays.

Bar Bricco chef Micah Joffe and Daniel Costa share some of their favourite spuntini to make at home. Recipes and words by Daniel Costa.

Pomegranate Bellini

I love making Bellinis during Christmas! It is so important that you use freshly squeezed juice. If you are unable to juice freshly, just drink the Prosecco to avoid disappointment. Try the same ratio with fresh blood orange juice during the holidays.

pomegranates, halved
cold Prosecco

Place a strainer over a bowl and squeeze the juice from the pomegranates. Reserve any unsqueezed arils (the juicy red bits). Place 12 oz of fresh pomegranate juice in a pitcher, slowly pour in 1 bottle of Prosecco. Gently stir with a bar spoon then allow the froth to subside. Pour into flutes. Spoon a few reserved arils into each glass. Drink immediately.

Serves 6-8.

Chicken Liver Crostini

This traditional Tuscan crostini is one of my favourite recipes of all time. The addition of Vin Santo is magic with the rich and delicious livers. Drink the remaining Vin Santo with your panettone at midnight.

200 g cleaned chicken livers, pat dry
½ med red onion, sliced
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 T capers
3 olive oil-preserved anchovy fillets
¼ c Vin Santo*
1 T red wine vinegar
high-quality balsamic vinegar (optional)
kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
1 loaf pain bonjour (Bonjour Bakery) or baguette cut into 1″ slices

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and ½ tablespoon oil in a medium pan over medium high heat. Add the red onion with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion begins to colour, then add the capers and anchovies. Continue cooking for 2 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from the heat but leave in the pan.

Heat the remaining butter and oil in a medium non-stick pan over high heat. Add the livers and ensure they are evenly distributed around the pan. Season. Fry for approximately 5 minutes or until dark golden. Using tongs, flip each piece and cook for another 3 minutes or until just cooked through.

Place the cooked livers in the pan of onions, return to high heat, cook for 1 minute, add the wine and red wine vinegar, cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cool to room temperature. Place the mixture in a food processor and pulse to your desired texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat your oven to 450ºF. Drizzle the sliced bread with olive oil, roast until golden but not dry.

Place a dollop of liver mixture on each crostini, then drizzle with balsamic. Serve immediately. Serves 6-8.

Chicken Liver Crostini

*Vin Santo is a Tuscan dessert wine made from air-dried Malvasia or Trebbiano grapes. Look for Capezzana or Ricasoli Vin Santo at better wine shops.

Frico with Fresh Horseradish

This dish, typical of Friuli, is extremely addictive. Try adding some grated Granny Smith apples to your mix or possibly butternut squash. I really like the addition of fresh horseradish to give it the extra kick. You could substitute fresh truffles for the horseradish for a more decadent bite.

1 lg Russet potato
300 g Montasio or Parmigiano cheese, coarsely grated
½ sm yellow onion, thinly sliced
kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
1 piece fresh horseradish, peeled
2 T olive oil

Place the potato in a small pot filled with cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then simmer until the potato is just cooked through (not overcooked). Test by poking with a small sharp knife. Remove the cooked potato from the water and while hot, remove the skin with the back of a paring knife. Allow potato to fully cool. Coarsely grate using a box grater (does not have to be perfect).

Heat the oil in a medium non-stick pan over medium heat, add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add grated potato to the pan, mix with the onion and cook for 1 minute. Raise heat to medium high, add the grated cheese and mix well. Using the back of a spatula, flatten the mixture in the pan. Cook for approximately 5 minutes without disturbing. This allows the cheese to fry and form a crust on the bottom. Shake the frico to loosen and check that the colour of the bottom is dark golden. If it is, place a large plate on the pan and invert the frico onto the plate then slide the frico back into the pan to allow it to cook on the other side for an additional 3 minutes. Slide onto a cutting board, allow to cool for 1 minute, cut into wedges. Top with your desired amount of freshly grated horseradish.

Serves 6-8.

Zucca Agrodolce with Mint and Chili

I like to leave squash such as these unpeeled to heighten the flavour, texture and colour. Eat your zucca as is, or pile on a crostini.

1 sm butternut squash
1 med delicata squash
2 med cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ c olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
1.5 T white sugar
1 t dried chili flakes
15 mint leaves
salt

Rinse the squash under cold water to remove any dirt. Cut off and discard both ends of each of the squash. Halve each and remove the seeds. Slice the squash into 1” half moons or any shape you desire.

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the squash to the pan and spread out to ensure each piece of squash is frying in oil. Cook until dark golden. Using tongs, flip each piece over, season with salt and continue cooking until just tender. Lower the heat to medium, add the garlic (try to place the sliced garlic where it will have contact with oil), vinegar, sugar and chili. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, toss a few times to ensure everything is coated. Remove from the heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then toss with the mint. Serve at room temperature for maximum flavour.

Serves 6-8.
squash

Ricotta Crostini with Guanciale

One the many variations of crostini that we make with our ricotta at our restaurants.

12 1″ slice pain bonjour (Bonjour Bakery) or baguette
250 g fresh ricotta
50 g Parmigiano, freshly and finely grated (approx ¼ cup)
50 g Pecorino Romano, freshly and finely grated (approx ¼ cup)
24 thin slices guanciale or pancetta
½ head Italian parsley, leaves picked
2 lemons
freshly cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Place the cheeses and juice of half a lemon in a bowl. Using a fork, mix until very well combined. The mixture should be thick and creamy but not dry, add a splash of cream if it is too dry. Season to taste with salt and lemon.

Evenly distribute the guanciale in a large non-stick pan. Cook over medium high heat until just crispy (do not overcook). Remove from pan, set aside.

Place the parsley and zest of 1 lemon in a bowl. Dress with the juice of 1 lemon and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and a generous amount of coarsely-cracked black pepper.

Drizzle olive oil over each crostini. Bake in the oven until golden but not dry. Dollop a spoon of ricotta on each crostino followed by 2 pieces of crispy guanciale and a pinch full of the parsley mixture. Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8.

Ricotta Crostini With Guanciale

Parmigiano and Leek Arancini

The sweet leeks and nutty Parmigiano make a beautifully balanced arancini. If you want to take the extra step, stuff each arancino with a piece of fontina or mozzarella. If you have extra risotto: fry in a non-stick pan until golden, top with a sunny-side-up egg and a little grated Parmigiano for the perfect Boxing Day breakfast.

6 c chicken or vegetable broth
2 c arborio or carnaroli rice
6 leeks
2 cloves garlic, whole
300 g Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
1 piece Parmigiano rind (cut off the end of your Parmigiano) (optional)
4 T freshly squeezed lemon
5T + 2T unsalted butter
2 c dry white wine
2 T extra virgin olive oil
5 leaves fresh sage
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
3 c bread crumbs
3 eggs
1 c flour

Bring the broth to a gentle boil.

Prepare the leeks. Cut off and discard the top third and bottom root of the leek. Remove the first layer of the leek to avoid any woodiness in your risotto. Cut the leek into roughly ½-inch slices. Place in a bowl and rinse to remove and dirt. Strain and set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat 5 T of butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add the leeks, season with a pinch of salt and cracked pepper. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the leeks are soft, add the whole garlic cloves and sage, continue cooking for 1 minute. Add the rice, stir with a wooden spoon, cook for about 1 minute stirring frequently. Add the white wine, turn the heat down slightly, cook until the wine has evaporated. Add a large ladle of boiling broth (or enough liquid to just cover the rice) and the Parmigiano rind. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally. Once the broth evaporates, add another ladle or 2 of broth.

Once the risotto has completed cooking, about 20-25 minutes total (the rice should have a slight give but no crunch) remove from the heat. Add the remaining butter and Parmigiano to the risotto; gently stir to incorporate. Add the lemon. Season to taste with more cheese, salt and lemon. The risotto should have the consistency of loose, creamy porridge not mashed potatoes. If the risotto is too thick, add a little more broth. Pour the risotto onto a baking sheet, allow to cool for a few minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to fully cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Remove and discard the garlic cloves and sage. Roll the risotto into golf ball-sized balls.

Place the breadcrumbs, eggs and flour in separate bowls. Beat the eggs well and add ¼ c of water. Mix to combine. Roll each risotto ball in the flour, shake off any excess, then dip in the egg and finally roll into the bread crumbs.

Heat 1.5 L of sunflower oil or other frying oil in a large pot to 360ºF (ensure the pot is only half full of oil to avoid boiling over). Fry the arancini in batches of 8 to avoid overcrowding. Fry until the arancini are golden (about 3 minutes). Gently remove the arancini with a steel slotted spoon, place them on a paper towel and season with a little salt. Serve with a little grated Parmigiano on top.

Serves 6-8.

All photos Randee Armstrong, randreearmstong.com

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