Do you remember when Brie was exotic? It was the early 80s. Preppies and their imitators were throwing lavish cocktail parties. Making a beeline for the buffet table, you saw trays lined with bready canapés and wheels of white-encased soft cheese. “It’s called Brie. It’s French and delicious,” you heard your mom, the hostess, declare. “Try some before the guests arrive. Then scoot.” So you loaded up your small plate with these pretty hors d’oeuvres, and, when she wasn’t looking, you tipped a little champagne into a cup and hightailed it back to your bedroom.
But when you got to your teen sanctuary, you looked down at the canapé plate and noticed that your slice of Brie was encased in a rind that seemed a little unfriendly. Do you eat the rind or try to extract the creamy center? You try both, and realize it’s much easier to shove the whole thing, rind and all, into your mouth. Buttery mixed with tangy. Not bad.
As time went on, you started noticing something called baked Brie at your TGI Fridays. It came to the table hot and perhaps coated in a jamlike spread with some herbs. You cut into it and out flowed its creaminess. You devoured it, emitting a few occasional grunts of satisfaction.
But had Brie really ever left, or was it marginalized to the realm of nostalgia, desperately looking for a way back into the world of acceptance? When we visited Steve’s sister this New Year’s Eve, she served a simple hors d’oeuvre of baked Brie with a generous glaze of butter, brown sugar, fresh parsley, and garlic. It’s not the prettiest dish to arrive at the table, but what it has going for it makes it survive the decades: flavor, simplicity, and, well, it’s melted cheese. Because Hot Brie Dip is so simple to make, it’s the perfect thing to bring out of the oven when most of your guests have arrived. Serve with airy, buttery crackers or toast points. Try it with other chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon or chervil, if you prefer. And mellower roasted garlic in lieu of the pungent zing of raw might be a substitution you’re willing to try if you have the time.
Pair with something that reminds you of sitting at a bistro. A French 75 or a Kir Royale may be just what the médecin ordered.
About the alternate “aka” name you see below: Carol later confessed to Paul that she got the recipe from her sister-in-law, so we colloquially refer to it as Sister-in-law Brie, or Brie à la Belle-sœur, if you want to sound poshly gourmet.
Hot Brie Dip, aka Brie à la Belle-sœur
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)
1 Brie wheel
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar (dark brown sugar will be richer tasting, with more molasses notes)
3 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus a few fresh leaves set aside
1 tablespoon minced garlic (you can substitute roasted garlic,* which is much less assertive)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place Brie wheel in a baking or pie dish and set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the brown sugar, parsley, and garlic to the butter and mix together. Pour over Brie wheel. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, or until the Brie is soft to the touch (it will give when you press on it). Cut into Brie as if you were cutting a slice of pie. It will ooze its creamy center, which will mix with the other ingredients. Sprinkle with fresh parsley leaves. Serve with crackers or toast points.
* Roasted Garlic
If you have a garlic roaster, great. If not, get out the aluminum foil. Cut the top off the garlic bulb, exposing the cloves. Place garlic on roaster or aluminum foil. Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil and coat evenly. Cover or wrap. Place in center rack of cold oven and turn to 400ºF. Bake for about an hour. Turn off heat and remove from oven. Remove garlic bulb, and place roaster and lid back in oven, if you’re using a terra cotta roaster, to prevent cracking. You can now extract the cloves from the bulb.
a glass of sherry
photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz