Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Holiday Party Contribution


We have some wonderful neighbors on our road who love to give parties. Great parties. Wonderful parties. Summertime, wintertime and sometimes in between. Not being able to choose any one party over another as my most favorite, I'll just say that one of their BEST is an annual Christmas ornament exchange party, the latest of which took place a few days ago.

Many, many people pack into their house bringing not only a wrapped ornament, but a savory or sweet offering to share as well. Always a festive occasion, this year was no exception; the food was wonderful, the ornaments top notch, the folks merry and cheerful as greetings were made, hugs were exchanged and friends "caught up" with one another. Our neighbors are good friends with warm hearts and a generous spirit of sharing and we love them.

Here then is my offering to this year's party. It comes from Sunset's 1989 Recipe Annual and is one that I haven't tweaked at all. No reason to. It's so good just the way it is. Well, there is one change I've made. I always use a larger round of brie than the recipe calls for (an 8 oz. round is specified). This year I used a 2.2 lb. wheel and tripled the ingredients but still used just the one sheet of puff pastry.

Warm Stuffed Brie in Golden Puff Pastry

Pastry Package
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 round (8 to 16 oz.) cold, firm brie
1 egg, beaten

Mushroom Filling (instructions below)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup sweet onion, like Mayan, chopped fine
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound mushrooms, brushed clean and chopped fine
3 tablespoons port
1/4 teaspoon each of the following dry herb leaves:
rosemary
thyme
marjoram

Assembly
For pastry package, roll thawed pastry out on a lightly floured board to 1/8 inch thickness. Trim to an 11-inch diameter round. Save scraps.

Cut the brie in half horizontally and place one piece, rind down in the middle of the pastry round. Place 1/2 of the mushroom filling on top of this and spread out to the edges. Place the second half of the brie on top of the bottom half, rind side up. Top with the remaining mushroom filling.

Brush the pastry rim with beaten egg. Lay the rim over the brie to completely enclose it, making pleats in the pastry to ensure a tidy package around the brie and brushing with the egg to seal. Trim the pastry where necessary and pinch the trimmed edges together, using beaten egg to seal. Again, save the scraps. Turn the brie package over so the sealed edges are on the bottom.

Roll the pastry scraps to about 1/8-inch thick and cut into holiday shapes. I used star and christmas tree cutters, but have done free-form holly leaves and berries on occasion. Brush the top and sides of the packet with the beaten egg. Place the cut out pieces decoratively on the top and sides of the brie. Brush the pieces with the beaten egg.

Place the the packet on a piece of foil on a cookie sheet and then place in the freezer, uncovered, for about 1/2 hour or until it feels firm. If you are making this ahead of time, you can then wrap the entire package and store in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Bake the packet, on the foil and the cookie sheet, in a 425 degree oven for about 35 minutes or until golden brown and a bit of the cheese and mushroom filling begins to ooze out. Transfer from the foil to a platter and allow to cool 10 to 15 minutes.

To serve, let people cut their own wedges from the packet. Provide plates and small forks for your guests, but also have your favorite crackers along side to aid in scooping up the melted brie.

Mushroom Filling Preparation
To make the mushroom filling, melt the butter over medium heat in a 10-inch skillet, add the onion and the garlic and cook until limp. Add the mushroooms, port and herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside to allow to cool.

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