Springtime Baked Brie Tartlets

64 Comments

Blogging is so addicting fun for me, that posts are scheduled months ahead. But as a result, when I come across something new that I must make ASAP, posts get pushed back, which is exactly what happened to these baked brie tartlets.

I wanted to make them last Christmas, but now here it is April. Instead of postponing them until the following Christmas, I decided to make a springtime version. I mean, why not? Warm cheese isn’t only for winter holidays. And instead of cranberry chutney or some similar festive variety, I’m using strawberry onion chutney.

If you’re not familiar with cooked fruit chutneys, they are different from compotes in that there are savory components. My favorites to use are combinations of onion, garlic, and ginger. The resulting flavor profile includes a bit of zing, as well as sweetness.

Recently on Instagram, I saw a cheese board from Murray’s Cheese in New York City, and I asked about a certain beautiful, orange-rinded cheese. Turns out it’s called Brebisrousse D’Argental, a sheep milk cheese from Lyon, France.

I thought the orange rind and white paste would be beautiful paired with the strawberry chutney.

Just for the ease of preparing these tartlets, I purchased pre-baked phyllo cups. You just fill and serve, and they’re basically a one-bite size.


Springtime Baked Brie Tartlets

1 package (15) phyllo tartlets
Cheese of choice that melts easily, like Brie, Fontina, or Raclette
Strawberry chutney, or choice of zingy condiment
Good balsamic vinegar

Place the tartlets on a microwave-safe serving dish. Fill them about halfway with the cheese you’re using. Gently warm the cheese, using a low-strength microwave setting.

Add some of the chutney, and then top with a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

And you’re done.

I know I called these baked brie tartlets, but baking isn’t necessary, since all you have to do is warm the cheese. I also didn’t actually use Brie…

Now I get to have friends over and finish up this amazing cheese that I just discovered! Yes, it melts well, but it’s also good as-is!

Get creative with this kind of tartlet. You can choose your cheese, as I did, and also choose your condiment. There are so many available for purchase these days – from apricot to tomato chutneys.

Raclette Quick Bread

30 Comments

For those of you who don’t know what a quick bread is, well, it’s just that – a quick bread! As opposed to slow bread, you could call it, or a yeasted bread, which can take hours to prepare and bake.

A quick bread contains no yeast. Baking powder is the leavening that lightens the bread as it bakes. Without leavening of any sort, breads would come out of the oven as heavy, dense bricks.

I learned that the hard way as a young girl. I went through a baking spurt where on Sundays I would get up and make recipes from a cookbook written for youngsters by Betty Crocker, such things as cinnamon rolls and coffee cakes. Once I wanted to make a certain breakfast bread that required yeast and something called “rising time,” and being that I didn’t have that kind of time, I just ignored that part of the recipe.

Knowing that I had made something special, because I had a feeling that yeast was special, and being quite proud of myself, when my mother came down to the kitchen, I asked her to remove the bread from the oven. As she proceeded to lift it from the oven rack, she almost dropped it because it weighed a ton. And, of course, it was inedible. The rising process for yeasted breads is mandatory. Lesson learned at age 9.

But back to quick breads. Besides being quick, they are extremely easy. And you can really mix up the ingredients much like you can pancakes. You just have to respect the wet ingredients to dry ingredients ratio. Think about it. A cookie dough is different from a cake batter for a reason. You can’t make a pancake with a stiff dough, and just the same you can’t bake a quick bread from a drippy batter.

There are familiar quick breads that just contain honey and molasses, but also banana and pumpkin breads as well. These are all sweet quick breads. But I really like making savory ones.

Today I decided to make a quick bread using some leftover raclette cheese that I had frozen after Christmas, and a few other goodies I gathered together. If you decide to make this bread, you can completely change up the ingredients including the cheese, to make this bread your own. See what you think.

Raclette Quick Bread

2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes from a package
4 ounces unsalted butter
6 ounces pancetta
16 ounces milk
2 eggs
8 ounces ricotta
3 tablespoons leftover pancetta grease
1/2 cup, approximately, fresh, chopped herbs*
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
12 ounces grated raclette or your cheese of choice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Chop up the dried tomatoes and place them in a small bowl. Add the butter to the bowl and microwave it until it is melted. Let the tomatoes hydrate in the butter while you continue with the recipe.

racl9
Chop the pancetta into large dice.

racl7

Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat. A little browning is good; don’t allow any burning. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate, but save the grease in the skillet.

To a large mixing bowl, add the milk, eggs, ricotta, pancetta grease, the herbs, and salt. Whisk this mixture until smooth.

racl5

Using a spoon, gradually add the flour and baking powder and stir until the flour is almost combine with the wet ingredients. The batter will be thick because of the ricotta cheese, so don’t think you’ve done something wrong. At that time, add the grated cheese and fold the batter until the flour and cheese is incorporated; do not over stir.

racl4

Divide the batter in between two greased 8 x 4″ loaf pans.

I actually used a handful of sliced Kalamata olives for half of this batter, because my husband doesn’t like them, but I do. The addition of the olives doesn’t affect the dry to wet ingredient ratio, so I just simply folded them in.
racl3
Place the pans in the oven for 45 minutes. The bread with the olives is in the foreground.

racl2
To make sure they are cooked through, use a cake tester or long toothpick to check them. No doughy substance should be sticking to the tester. If there is, the breads need to be cooked for maybe five minutes longer. An alternative is to lower your oven to 325 degrees to help the breads cook in the middle.

There should be a little rise along the middle of the bread, and it should also be firm to the touch.

racl8

Let the breads rest in the pans for about 30 minutes, and then remove them to cool completely.

racl

Serve these breads as part of a buffet, or for an hors d’oeuvres platter. They’re best warm or at room temperature.

racl12

* I used parsley, rosemary, and oregano straight from the garden. But you can use one herb or many, depending on your taste.

racl6

note: To change up the ingredients, think about adding nuts, for example, or even chopped jalapenos! This bread would also be good with a smoked cheese, cilantro, and adobo seasoning! Get creative!

racl14

Nutrition Facts Widget Image

Raclette

25 Comments

Raclette is not only a name of one of my top five favorite cheeses, but it is also a way to eat. I should say it could be a way to live, because if I could get away with it, I’d eat this way every day! Let me explain.

My family and I took an extended trip through Eastern France about ten years ago, and thankfully, we visited Chamonix. It’s a most magical and picturesque Alpine town, situated at the base of the Alps.

One evening we were wandering through the village trying to pick out our dinner spot. We’re very picky about such things. And then I smelled it. That undeniable smell of warm, stinky cheese. I followed my nose to a restaurant with outside seating – all woodsy and cozy. Even in May, it was chilly at night. Then I noticed these strange contraptions on diners’ tables. This is when and where I discovered Raclette.

Raclette is a cheese – cows’ milk variety – that comes from the Rhones-Alpes region of France. It’s a bit cow-y, but not strong like Reblochon, see tartiflette. I prefer French raclette over Swiss raclette, but that’s just a personal preference. Raclette has an inherent, specific viscosity. If you have noticed, hot cheeses can be thin and runny, or barely move at all – like rubber. Melted raclette is pourable, but not runny.

rac4

The verb “racler” in French means “to scrape.” So this is what you do when you raclette (verb): the raclette (noun) melts because of a heat source, then you scrape the melted cheese onto your bread or potatoes. Originally, the wheels of raclette were melted over or in front of an actual fire.

The contraptions I noticed on the tables of this restaurant in Chamonix were mini versions of traditional fireplace-styled raclettes. A rustic arm of sorts held the piece of cheese, with a fire source underneath, and diners scraped away at the cheese!

After returning home, you can bet I researched raclette, and lo and behold! There were electric raclette makers!!! Not as provincial as sitting around a fire waiting for your blob of melted cheese, but that’s ok. I’m talking about having the most fun you can imagine cooking yourself a dinner that revolves around cheese!!!

In general, there are two kinds of raclette makers. The one on the right is extremely expensive, and not really that much fun I wouldn’t think. It holds a quarter wheel, but I’ve seen similar ones that hold a half wheel. Too much waiting for the cheese to melt.

51JRB8xZ1IL__AA160_

This one, shown below, from Williams Sonoma, is very similar to the three I now own. They cost much less and are way more fun, because you can melt your cheese in the little dishes down below, there are eight of them, and grill meats and breads on the upper granite slab. Yes, I now own three raclette makers – I mean, the more people, the merrier!

img19o

Unfortunately, I can’t refer you to the brand I own because I can’t find them anywhere. I guess after years of inviting friends to raclette with me, all of the grills were sold! I would recommend purchasing the grill with the highest rating from a respected company, like Williams-Sonoma, or Amazon.

Raclette cheese wheels are about 15 pounds, but it’s possible to purchase a quarter wheel from igourmet.com, and that will probably get you through the holidays, depending on how many people want to get in on the fun.

So here’s what to do if you want to have a Raclette night, my way.

Raclette Menu for 2 people*

2 filet mignons
Olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Raclette, about 2 pounds
1 loaf of good hearty bread
Salad Greens
Salad toppings such as tomato, mushrooms, and hearts of palm
Vinaigrette of choice, I recommend a beet-apple vinaigrette**
1 cooked potato, sliced into quarters, lengthwise
Cornichons
Pickled onions

Set two places at the dining table. You’ll need a small plate, a knife, and a fork. The grill comes with the dishes for the cheese, plus the little scrapers with which to remove the cheese from the dishes. I also recommend tongs to pick up the cheese, as well as the other goodies you’re going to have on the table.

rac1

Thinly slice the filets and place the slices on a plate. Blend together the olive oil, garlic, and salt until smooth. Pour over the filet slices and set aside. The marination can also be done the day before; bring the beef to room temperature before beginning to raclette.

Cut up the Raclette (cheese) into about 2″ squares, about 1/3 ” thick. Place on a plate and set on the table.

Slice the bread into 1/4″ slices; place in a bowl or basket and set on the table. If you prefer, grill them ahead of time.

rac3

Divide the salad greens into four bowls. Divide the salad toppings between the four salads. Put these four bowls next to the four plates already on the table.

Place the vinaigrette in a serving bowl or carafe for self-service.

Divide the quartered potatoes among the plates.

Place the cornichons and onions on a little plate on the table.

The electric raclette maker goes in the middle of the table. One raclette maker will easily work for four people at a square table.

rac2

Turn on the raclette. Give it a good 15 minutes to heat up properly.

Place a piece of cheese in a dish to start the melting process. Place a piece or two of the marinated beef on the top to grill. If you wish, add a little butter to the top and grill a few pieces of bread; that’s optional. Add some vinaigrette to your salad, and help yourself to the cornichons and pickled onions.

As the bread grills, place it on the plate. Using the scraper, scrape the cheese out of the dish and onto your bread. Cook your beef how you like it. Eat as is, or place it on your salad. Eat, cook, continue.

rac7

* For more people, just double or triple the menu suggestions. I’ve had eight people raclette with the three raclette grills, and it worked great!

** The beet-apple vinaigrette goes really well with the sweet, creamy cheese. If I were to use a more basic vinaigrette, I would include sliced beets on the salad.

rac8

note: On experiencing raclette, I have only seen raclette on menus in the states at restaurants in ski towns, but only served during the ski season. But I have had raclette at the Burrough Market in London, a very large farmers’ market, at different times of the year. So I’m not really sure about the rules on raclette and when to expect it. Nonetheless, I would recommend trying it whenever and wherever!