I got the recipe in a cooking class at The Wine Artist in Lake Forest. I had never heard of this place, but put it on your radar for a cooking class/party with your friends.
Transitioning out of corporate work, M.J. Hong set up The Wine Artist as a facility for corporate events, team-building and private parties, which means you could reserve it for anything from a wedding to a fun class designed around one of Hong's themes, which pretty much cover the world's cuisines. Walking in, you think you're in a classy wine bar (above).
You'll each have your own work station (above) with cutting board and knife. Other tools, portable cooking units and ingredients are within easy reach. Afterward, you'll dump all your equipment into big grey pans behind you--washing dishes isn't part of the class.
Hong organizes so well that it wasn't work at all as my group ran through an arugula, pear and candied pecan salad, lobster bisque, the crostini, polenta squares topped with sausage and mushrooms, stuffed eggplant and grilled lamb skewers with tzatziki sauce.
"I love to entertain," she said. "My passion is entertaining." And so we were warmly greeted with pitchers of sangria loaded with fruit (the recipe is on her website) and platters of ham, sausage, cheeses, crackers, olives, fruit and dates stuffed with almonds.
After a few nibbles, we put on aprons and set to work. Hong had chosen the dishes to match wines brought by the leader of my group--we were all serious wine tasters. The 2009 La Rochelle Pinor Noir, Donum Estate, Carneros, went with the crostini.
Two La Rochelle Chardonnays from 2010 accompanied the salad and bisque (above). The grapes for one came from Dutton Ranch, Russian River; the other wine was from Ferrington Vineyard in the Anderson Valley.
Like a good hostess, Hong added something extra, a dessert that wasn't on our menu. This was mixed berries topped with sweetened mascarpone mixed with marsala and a sprinkling of crumbled cookies. And she brought out a sweet black raspberry Merlot that she had made at The Wine Artist.
It was a nice finish that carried out her philosophy: "I want you to be a guest at your own event."
RICOTTA, GORGONZOLA & MUSHROOM CROSTINI
From The Wine Artist
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus extra for the bread
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Slice the baguette crosswise about 1/4-inch thick. Place the slices in rows on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil and toast until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons oil and the butter. Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and stir to deglaze. Remove from heat and add the ricotta and parsley and stir.
Spoon the mushroom mixture onto the crostini and top with Gorgonzola. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.