The other night I obtained a small wheel of Brie from the cheese company Ile de France. In full disclosure, the company offered me the cheese to sample and blog about. Also, there's currently a recipe contest going on so I figure I'd try out a couple.
I had a few pieces of the cheese before incorporating it into recipes. This was an interesting Brie because it had a relatively firmer middle and softer rind than the double or triple cream varieties I usually buy. This resulted in a Brie that was extremely easy to cut and eat. The cheese had a nice strong flavor for a Brie. Texturally, the rind and middle worked well together due to their similar firmness; sharply contrasting textures can sometimes detract front the taste. It's easy to see why this Brie won a Food & Wine taste test. On with the cooking!
My first pass at cooking with this cheese came in the form of phyllo dough squares with snow crab. This was a simple recipe. Layer about 15 sheets of phyllo, brushing butter on each layer. Cut into squares slightly larger than the Brie pieces and pierce each square with fork to prevent too much puffing. Bake as directed and remove from the oven 10 minutes before it's done, i.e., 350°F for 10-15 minutes. Add the Brie and pieces of steamed snow crab leg meat. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese starts to look gooey. Remove, drizzle on a few drops of white truffle oil, and serve. If you're like me, you'll burn the roof of your mouth and love doing it. Modesty aside, these squares were amazing. The mild crab and white truffle together with the warm, salty Brie and the buttery, crispy phyllo made me glad I baked extra squares. Though I did regret eating more of these than I should have, guilt never tasted so good.
For the next recipe, I prepared a Brie souffle. To make this simple-as-it-gets souffle, I needed the following:
5 large egg whites at room temperature
4 oz of Brie, cubed and rind removed (half of the wheel above)
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
¼ cup water
dash of cream of tartar
1 electric hand mixer or whisk and a hand that won't quit
After preheating the oven to 350°F and generously buttering the sides of three 4" ramekins, melt the cheese in a small pot with water over medium heat. Stir constantly. When the cheese is evenly melted, add the cornstarch and stir. As soon as the mixture starts to bubble, remove from heat, transfer to a plastic or glass bowl, and beat with the hand mixer on medium for 3-5 minutes or until cool. This helps maintain small fat particles evenly disbursed through out the mixture, otherwise puddles of oil form. Once cooled, in a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high until a stiff peak forms. It's very important the whites are at room temperature before beating. You could speed things up by putting the eggs in warm water before separating yolk from whites.
When the egg whites form a stiff peak, it's time to combine with the cheese. With a spatula, first fold in about 1/3 of the whites into the cheese. Once that's even, add the cheese to the rest of the whites and fold until even, but don't over do it, otherwise your souffle won't rise.
Once the egg whites and cheese are evenly folded, fill the buttered ramekins. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and serve immediately. Make sure to say "Voilà" while you serve it. As you can see, 3 went in but only 2 are in the foto. This was because I had to eat one to make sure it was cooked...it's really the only way to be absolutely certain. These light, airy souffles had plenty of the Brie flavor. I intentionally avoided a complicated recipe to not detract from the cheese, one of my rare good decisions. The salty Brie puffed well and added just enough fat content to the souffle for some creaminess without preventing the rising. The crusty muffin top reminded me of eating slightly charred cheese, which I loved to do as a kid, so there was a slight nostalgic aspect to this recipe.
So my sincere thanks goes to Ile de France for providing me some of their delicious Brie to sample. If ever a dish calls for Brie, I would definitely consider getting more, since my cooking experience with it has been a great one.
However, because all of the above happened in one night, it may be a little while before I crave Brie again, especially since my bastard of a scale mercilessly reminds me of how I consumed a wheel of cheese in one night.