Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Cheese Stands Alone

So as a result of my apartment lock down (broken elevator, see previous post for more info) I spent the weekend making dishes that required no extra shopping...or so I thought, until I realized I was out of crusty bread for the above pictured dish. It wasn't a problem though, as I decided to spend Sunday out on the streets for as long as possible, and to only come home and tackle the seven flights of stairs once. Granted, this led to (as it always does) a new pair of boots (I know, I'm poor now, but they're fabulous), three new books to read, and many errands run. Oh yeah, and eventually I bought a fresh baguette from the bakery across the street. I generally prefer a ciabatta or sourdough for this, but they seemed to be out, and/or were trying to be really mean to me (I'm pretty sure it's the latter. Dammit).

Regardless of the bread, the dish turned out great. I was hoping to have something fun to watch while it baked in the oven, and finally I saw that of all places, the Disney Channel had something for me. So I preheated the oven, popped in the baguette and sat down to watch...Finding Nemo! I know it's for children, but honestly I love that movie, and let's not even get into how excited I am to Netflix Ratatouille today. It's absurd that I haven't seen it, and I'm just tickled that I'll probably have it by the weekend. And we won't talk about how many times I cried during Nemo.

So back to the brie. You can really do this with
any soft cheese you like. The first time I tried it a few months ago it was with a very stinky Camembert, and it was quite good. The bread was lacking, but that's not my fault (I think?). This time I tried a soft and mellow brie, and I think it was a good move. The Camembert had been very gooey and oozey, but the brie was a lot more buttery, slightly sweet and had more body. To contrast those flavors I decided to go slightly spicy on the bread, sprinkling a little bit of paprika, cayenne and grey sea salt (more on that after the recipe). It worked out well, and for those of you questioning your love of brie, I promise you the flavor that develops in the oven is light years beyond your average party cheese, so give it a try. Here's how you do it:

Baked Brie with Paprika and Sea Salt Bread

1 wheel of Brie, or soft cheese of your choosing
1 loaf of crusty bread, like ciabatta, sourdough, or a baguette
Olive oil
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. I like to put the loaf of bread in as the oven heats up just so it's warmed through before you slice it, but it's not necessary.

2. Remove cheese from all packaging, leaving the rind on. Wrap it in a sheet of aluminum foil and place it in the middle of a baking tray until oven is heated.

3. Cut the bread into one inch slices and toss with olive oil, paprika, cayenne and grey sea salt and add it to the baking sheet with the cheese. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, removing the bread once it's golden brown, usually after 8-10 minutes.

4. When the cheese is done, the easiest way to remove it from the foil is by carefully flipping it out onto a plate (that's why the top is golden brown in the photo, it's actually the bottom).

**TIP: Try using grey sea salt. Believe it or not, it's actually saltier than regular table or kosher salt. It has a richer flavor and therefore does a better job of bringing out the flavors in the food you season with it. After all, salt not only makes things salty, but it brings out the moisture in whatever you're salting, and moisture is flavor. So if you want more flavor, use the salt that does the best job of providing it. And now I'll hop off my soapbox. Good day.


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