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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Brie…a Cheese with a Royal Past

                           Brie smoked on a cedar plank with roasted red peppers & herbs

In 1814 brie won the award for the best cheese in Europe.  While today it is one of the world’s greatest and most popular cheeses, brie has an ancient noble heritage.  During the French Revolution, Louis XVI’s last wish was supposedly for one final taste of brie.  More importantly, when Charlemagne was Emperor in the 8th century, brie was known as the “King’s cheese.”

Brie is named after the region in which it was originally made, near the town of Meaux, <40 miles east of Paris.  Called “Brie de Meaux” cheese from this area was granted an important protection of its origin by the French government in 1980 when it was awarded  a coveted A.O.C. (Appellation d’origine controlee).  Now only cheese from this district can be called brie in all of Europe.

Made entirely from cow’s milk, brie is 45% fat which accounts for its creamy, butter-soft taste and texture.  When perfectly ripe (a period of at least 40 days), it should be soft and flavorful, not runny or pungent.   The cheese’s white rind may be eaten---or not---it’s a personal choice of taste.

The real version of brie (Brie de Meaux) is rarely seen in the U.S. because it is made with unpasteurized milk---this cheese can only be exported to the US after it is aged for at least 60 days.  A cousin of Brie de Meaux, Fromage de Meaux, is made from pasteurized milk for export markets and is often seen in the US masquerading as brie.

The only way for Americans to experience perfectly ripened Brie de Meaux is to travel outside the country.  As the town of Meaux is situated near the Champagne wine area, participants on the September 2013 tour will have opportunities to taste the authentic version.  In the meanwhile, here is the recipe for the best brie dish I have ever tasted:

Brie on a Cedar Plank

Ingredients:
·        6 inch wheel of brie
·        1 head of peeled garlic
·        ½ C olive oil
·        1 green onion
·        1 roasted & peeled red bell pepper
·        1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
·        2 tablespoons fresh thyme
·        2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
·        1 cedar plank for grilling

Directions:
  • Soak the cedar plank in water (weighted down) for at least 4 hours to ensure it doesn’t burn when placed on the grill
  • Place peeled garlic cloves in a small pan with the olive oil and cook on low until garlic gets soft and a little brown (about 20 minutes.)  Drain and let cool.
  • In a food processor place the garlic, green onion, roasted red pepper, thyme, balsamic, and pepper…process until all ingredients are combined
  • Cut the top skin off the brie (most easily done if brie is very cold) and place it on the drained cedar plank
  • Cover the brie with the topping, piling it on liberally
  • Grill on a BBQ over medium high heat, cooking till the brie begins to melt

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