Monday, January 2, 2012

Wild Mushroom Baked Brie

The holidays: a time for love, giving, family...and...repetition. I'm not quite sure how many years it's been going on for, but for as long as I can remember my family has been serving up the exact same meal at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For years I loved that tradition, knowing that I only had a few months to wait before I could enjoy that same delicious meal again, but as more and more years have passed, and at a much more alarming pace, both myself and some other family members have grown a little tired with our staple holiday meal. The first time my sister and I suggested switching up our holiday meal, we were returned with either a grimace or a confused deer-in-headlights expression. No one was the slightest bit interested in shaking up the familiar meal. I understood where everyone was coming from, seeing as the meal...actually, make that feast is so damn delicious, but at the same time, I felt it would be more special if we had it less frequently. Another year of the same meal passed and we began to see family members taking our side one at a time. Slowly people began switching up their signature dish (our meal is always a pot luck so that everyone is contributing), either making a variation on their old standby, or sticking to their same theme of either vegetable, starch, protein, salad, dessert etc. but turn it into a completely new dish. By slowly introducing new flavours and menu items, both the family members that were itching for something new and the ones who loved the old meal would walk away with a full belly and a smiling face.

For about three years now, I have been on appetizer duty for our Christmas dinner, a role that I absolutely love to take on! Despite the incredible wide range of delicious appetizer options there are, especially for the holidays, I always crave a good baked brie come Christmas time. Baked brie can be as easy as wrapping a wheel of brie in tin foil and popping it in the oven, but I enjoy playing with different flavours, both savory and sweet, when it comes to my homemade baked brie. In the past I've made everything from caramelized onion brie, cranberry brie, pecan brie, the list goes on, so that no matter if I am making baked brie again, I can still surprise people by turning it into something new and interesting. This year I wanted to use an ingredient I have never cooked with before, dried mushrooms. When it comes to wild mushrooms, many people choose dried as opposed to fresh for the wonderful convenience and concentrated mushroom flavour, so I was curious to finally give them a try myself and see how the flavour measured up. Using a bag of mixed wild mushrooms including shiitake, oyster, and porcini, as well as some caramelized onions, fresh thyme, and balsamic vinegar, I made an insanely quick and easy brie topper and had my yummy appetizer ready to go into the oven before I knew it. Because there is so much cooking and baking being done last minute on Christmas, I made my brie and wild mushroom topper ahead of time so that 20 minutes before our guests arrived all I had to do was simply pop my little brie baker in the oven! Bubbling, oozing, and perfectly melted through, the creamy brie arrived at the table hugging the mushroom mixture layered on top, a dangerously tempting sight! There's no question that I have a tendency to toot my own horn when I'm really happy with how a dish turned out, but there was simply no need to when I served my Wild Mushroom Baked Brie, because the brie baker, which was empty within a matter of minutes, spoke for itself. Easy, convenient, attractive, and incredibly delicious, my Wild Mushroom Brie may have to make another appearance at our next Christmas dinner...or is Easter too soon?

Tip: Make your wild mushroom mixture brie topper ahead of time to save time before your guests arrive. Simply top your brie and bake 20 minutes before guests arrive.

1/2 medium-large onion, sliced
2 tbsp butter
1 small package dried mixed wild mushrooms (equalling about 1/2 cup dried)
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper
1 wheel of brie, about 5 inches in diameter

1. Rehydrate the dried mushrooms following the package instructions, or place dried mushrooms in a bowl and add just enough boiling water to cover the mushrooms, let soak for about 20 minutes or until mushrooms have softened.

2. In the meantime, heat butter in a medium skillet at medium heat. When butter is hot, add the onions and stir. Place a lid over the onions in the skillet to allow them to steam, stir occasionally. Continue to cook onions in the lid, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and beginning to colour.

3. Strain out the soaked dried mushrooms (you may reserve the soaking liquid for a soup, stew, or sauce!), and squeeze them to remove any remaining water. Roughly chop the mushrooms and stir them into the softened onions on the stove. Cook for about 3 minutes.

4. Turn up heat to medium-high and add the balsamic vinegar, stirring to combine. Continue cooking until mushrooms are almost dry. Turn off the heat and stir in thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Using a serrated knife, cut off the top rind of the brie wheel and place inside a brie baker (or on a large piece of tin foil). Mound the wild mushroom mixture on top of the brie and close the lid of the baker (if using tin foil, wrap the foil around the brie and mushrooms securely). Bake in a 350º oven for about 20 minutes. Serve immediately with fresh baguette and crackers.

Listening To:
TV on the Radio - Ambulance

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