When I first started hosting parties, I was hopelessly ambitious. I made multi-part dishes from scratch and always baked a sweet for dessert. But it only took six months of parties to see that my methods were unsustainable. Before long, my menus became much, much simpler —an excellent shift. Why? Well, if I avoided dinner party complexity, I’d have friends over more often. (You can browse some of my favorite tried-and-true dinner party menus over on my blog, Big Girls Small Kitchen.)
Crostini were instrumental to my newfound simple hosting style. The crisp slices of bread took well to any topping I could dream up. Some, like a smear of pimento cheese, made the crostini casual enough for a barbecue. Others, like a mini wedge of aged goat cheese piled atop a red-wine onion jam, instantly set a more formal tone. What’s more, loading a caponata or caprese salad on top of bread stretched the original dish, meaning I could easily welcome last-minute additions to the guest list.
Now, whether I’m hosting a cocktail party with many types of bites or a dinner party with one simple hors d’oeuvres, I almost always find myself in the kitchen before a party, slicing bread for some version of the simplest and most versatile dish of all: the crostini.
And of all the ingredients I’ve combined on top of bread, this platter of crostini with seared garlicky shrimp and creamy avocado is one of the best. The flavors are fantastic on their own, and they pair beautifully with the citrus notes in the deliciously crisp K-J AVANT Sauvignon Blanc. Be sure to stock up your wine rack with bottles–that’s another tenet of my entertaining strategy: never run out of good wine.
- 1 large baguette
- 4 ripe avocado
- 2 lemons
- Sea salt
- Olive oil
- About ⅔ pound medium shrimp (you'll want about 28 shrimp)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small red chili pepper, minced
- Cut the baguette into ½-inch thick slices on the diagonal. Set them aside.
- Cut the avocados in half. Discard the pits, then scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash until smooth. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon and sprinkle with plenty of salt, tasting as you go, until the mash is well seasoned. Set aside as well.
- Now heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Generously film the surface with olive oil and immediately add the shrimp. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown, then flip. Season with salt and add the garlic and red pepper. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring to prevent burning, until the shrimp are cooked through and the garlic is golden. Transfer to a plate.
- Return the pan to the heat and a little more oil. Fit in as many baguette slices as you can, and fry them in the oil until golden, flipping once. Transfer the finished slices to a baking sheet and continue until you have fried all the slices.
- To assemble the crostini: spread each slice with about 1½ tablespoons of avocado mash. Cut each shrimp in half horizontally (like a hamburger bun) and place on top of the avocado. Be sure to get some garlic and red chilies on there too! Sprinkle on a little more lemon juice and salt, and serve immediately. These are great both warm and room temperature.