Brie is a soft, cow's milk cheese that was first made in the Brie region of France. It has a pale, off-white color and a mild taste with a hint of butter and nut flavor. The cheese is made in wheels, and can be purchased as a whole wheel or wedge form. Brie is covered with a removable white mold rind. There are countless ways to enjoy brie cheese.
Brie en Croute
Brie en croute is a popular recipe; "en croute" is a French term that roughly translates to "in a crust." All you need is a wheel of brie and a puff pastry shell; if you prefer, you can use phyllo dough or a can of crescent rolls. Remove the rind if you prefer or leave it on and then wrap the entire wheel with the sheet of puff pastry. You can reserve a small bit of the pastry dough to cut out shapes to decorate the top of the brie. Bake the pastry-wrapped brie at 400 F for 25 minutes and then enjoy one wedge at a time. Make this a sweet recipe by topping the brie with preserves or fruit before wrapping with dough; nuts, herbs or caramelized onions make a savory treat.
Brie lends a creamy texture to sandwiches. You can use any type of meat you like, but ham and brie is the classic sandwich combination. A French loaf is the ideal cheese to use for a cold brie sandwich; top it with your favorite green leafy vegetable, such as romaine lettuce, spinach or arugula. Brie is also delicious hot, so try buttering some bread and making a hot ham and brie sandwich or grilling one to make a hot brie panini. Substitute gruyere cheese for brie to make a Monte Cristo sandwich, a twist on the French croque-monsieur. The entire sandwich is typically dipped in egg, grilled and then dusted with confectioner's sugar. You can spread your favorite preserves inside the sandwich and serve it with yogurt or put the preserves on the side.
Fondue is a popular Swiss and French dish that originated in Switzerland; it consists of a communal pot of melted cheese kept warm over a small burner. Fondue is often made with two types of cheese melted with wine, but you can make a delicious French variation by melting brie cheese with champagne. Rub a saucepan with a clove of garlic, then add champagne and bring it to a boil; if your brie cheese is young, you can increase the flavor of the fondue with some Kirsch brandy. You'll need about one cup of champagne per pound of brie, but can adjust that amount to make your desired consistency. Reduce the heat to simmer and stir in the brie. Add cornstarch or flour to thicken the fondue. Provide each guest with a fondue fork and eat the fondue with cubes of crusty bread or your favorite vegetables.
Brie cheese is often featured on cheese and cracker trays. Simply place a wheel or wedge of brie on a platter with a few cracker choices, fruits and vegetables, and let guests help themselves. Make the brie more like dessert by topping with fruit preserves and serving with shortbread cookies.
You can also make bite-sized pizza squares with brie cheese. Prepare a thin-crust pizza with tomato or pesto sauce, sprinkle with brie, and add your favorite toppings like onions, tomatoes or ham. Bake at 400 F for 15 to 25 minutes until the crust is crisp. Bake for more or less time depending on the number of toppings. Cut into 2- or 3-inch squares and enjoy.
A stuffed sourdough brie appetizer can be made by combining melted brie with onions, garlic, mushrooms or your choice of ingredients. Cut the top off a sourdough loaf, hollow out the center, fill with the mixture and set under a broiler 10 minutes or until crisp. Slice into wedges to serve.
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