There is no cheese more perfect for Valentine’s Day than Brie. Brie is smooth and sexy, silken soft and full of potential. Alone it is rich and mildly tangy spread on a crusty slice of baguette or eaten with fruit. As an ingredient it provides a dramatic canvas for a great variety of flavors both sweet and savory.
Brie can be dressed up or down, baked with mustard and pepper, mango chutney or apricot jam. It can be wrapped in a buttery crisp robe of puff pastry or baked into a quiche. It can also be turned inside out and sprinkled with spicy hot pepper flakes, herbs and spices.
This recipe for Spicy Hot Brie is gleaned from the December issue of Sunset. There it is suggested as part of a cocktail party menu. The simplicity of it caught my eye and the flavorful herbs and spices urged me to try it with a wedge of brie leftover from an earlier celebration.
Easy to put together, this tasty appetizer is ready to serve after just a few minutes in a hot oven. Simply sprinkle the herbs and spices over the brie before baking. Or, for a touch of drama, crack whole peppercorns with a pestle, then add the cumin seed and red pepper flakes to the mortar for a few quick grinds to blend the flavors and release the fragrance as guests arrive. Finally, snip the rosemary into the mortar and give the mixture one last grind before scattering it over the brie and tucking the cheese into a warm oven. In less than ten minutes the edges will begin to bubble and the cheese will be ready to share and savor.
Spicy Hot Brie
from the December 2011 issue of Sunset
12 ounces brie cheese
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, according to taste
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, snipped
rosemary sprigs, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Split the brie horizontally, evenly through the soft center of the cheese.
Arrange the cheese in a pretty baking dish with the soft centers facing up.
Combine the cracked peppercorns, cumin seeds, red pepper flakes and rosemary. Grind briefly with a mortar and pestle to blend and release fragrance, if desired. (It will release more flavor from the spices.)
Sprinkle the herb and spice mixture over the brie.
Bake at 350 degrees until the edges of the cheese begin to melt and bubble, approximately 5 - 10 minutes.
Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs, if desired.
Serve with crackers, breadsticks or slices of baguette.