In aid of an ongoing research project, I recently acquired a cookbook from 1969 written by Helen Gurley Brown called Single Girls Cookbook. Helen Gurley Brown was the editor in chief at Cosmopolitan Magazine for 32 years and as such had a huge influence on women – how they perceived themselves and how they were perceived. She wrote Sex and the Single Girl and Having it All, books about being a modern, liberated woman. Sadly, the Single Girls cookbook is not all girl dinners, treating yourself, being self-sufficient or balanced eating. It is mostly recipes and party menus to catch a man, keep a man, entertain said man’s family, friends and employers and how to eat frugally when you don’t have a man paying for dinner. It’s pretty disappointing. But I did stumble across this one recipe that intrigued me (in a chapter on how to deviate from the recipes your current boring man likes and shock him with unfamiliar foods so he’ll break up with you and you can find a better man). Camembert in wine. I had to try it. I am not trying to scare anybody off, but it sounded really interesting. Besides, any man scared off by camembert is not the right man for me! The pungent camembert is intensified by the wine, which also adds a lovely, tangy edge. To liven it up, I added a drizzle of honey browned butter which take softens the edge and provides a perfect sweet and savory contrast. This whole plan takes the whipped brie trend to a new, higher level.
You don’t have to use the finest, ripest camembert or expensive wine for this. In fact, I usually buy a wheel of cheese in a cardboard box and a small split (or even can) of white wine. I like to spread this on a plate or platter and press a little swirl for the honey bitter to rest in, but you can mound it up or but it in a bowl with the honey butter covering the surface. Hazelnuts are perfect with the nutty brown butter and tangy camembert, but almonds would also be delicious. This can be made ahead in stages, but make sure the finished Camembert has come to room temperature before serving so it is spreadable, and the honey butter is the same temperature so it doesn’t solidify on the cheese. If you are intrigued by camembert (but not afraid), check out my calvados soaked version, or try it with honey roasted apples.
Wine-Soaked Camembert with Honey Brown Butter
7 or 8-ounce wheel of camembert
1 cup white wine
¼ cup (half a stick) of unsalted butter
1 ½ Tablespoons honey
½ cup hazelnuts
- Put the camembert into a small bowl not too much bigger than the wheel of cheese. Pour over the wine and place the bowl in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight. If you think to, turn it over once or twice.
- Remove the cheese from the wine and use a knife to scrape off the rind. It will come off easily, but don’t worry of you don’t get it all off. Discard the rind, cut the cheese into small pieces and place in a food processor. Add on tablespoon of the soaking wine and a pinch of salt and process to smooth, spreadable paste, adding more wine by the tablespoon as needed. Scrape the cheese spread onto a plate and spread it into a thick layer. Use the back of a spoon to create a channel to fill with the butter. You can cover the cheese and refrigerate again for several hours at this point. Discard the wine.
- Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Swirl the butter around to distribute the browned bits, then stir in the honey to incorporate. Leave to cool.
- Toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet until just evenly browned. Turn out onto a tea towel, fold the towel to enclose the nuts and roll them around to remove the skins. You can then whack the nuts in the towel with a rolling pin a few times to break them up.
- Take the cheese out of the fridge and let it come close to room temperature. Drizzle the honey butter over the cheese, then top with the hazelnuts and a pinch of salt. Serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.