Baked brie with fruity toppings used to be all the rage, and the real height of sophisticated appetizers. But they seem to have fallen out of fashion a little. I rarely see them at parties or in cookbooks anymore. Perhaps the trend for simple artsy charcuterie trays have taken their place, or appetizers served on individual spoons. But just because a dish isn’t trendy anymore doesn’t mean it still doesn’t taste good. I was missing those old creamy baked cheeses, so I got to work on a version perfect for fall, redolent with the classic tastes of autumn pears, cranberries, walnuts and rosemary – with just a little hit of bourbon. And camembert is a bit tangier and richer than brie, so I used that. When I served this, I got two responses about how you never see baked brie anymore, and that’s a shame. I couldn’t agree more.
This is a perfect, make-ahead starter for Thanksgiving, and looks really beautiful to boot. I serve it with baguette slices or good cracker.
Baked Camembert with Pear, Cranberry and Walnut Relish
¼ cup dried cranberries
2 Tablespoons bourbon
¼ cup walnut pieces
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 yellow or green pear
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Pinch of salt
1 (8-ounce) round of camembert
Place the cranberries and bourbon in a small bowl and leave to soak for about 20 minutes, until the berries are plumped.
In a small saucepan, toast the walnuts over medium heat until just brown and fragrant. Remove to small plate and wipe the saucepan out.
Melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium heat and bring to a boil. While the mixture is cooking, quickly core the pear and cut it into small pieces. Immediately add it to the sugar and butter. Stir to coat the pears. Stir in the cranberries and any liquid left with them, the rosemary and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat until the pears are soft and there and the liquid is evaporated, about 15 minutes. There should just be a light glaze coating the pears. Stir in the walnuts and set aside to cool. The pear topping can be made up to a day ahead, covered and refrigerated.
When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°. Place the camembert in a small oven proof dish and spread the pear relish over the top. Bake until the cheese is soft and melty and the relish is hot though, about 15 mintues.
Serve immediately with crackers.
Serves 6 – 8