Despite my deep affection for cheese, to the point that one of my favorite things to do on a New York City weekend is to dip into Murray’s and treat us to something crumbly or aged or rich and runny, I don’t love cheese plates. It feels really good to get this off my chest. At first, it was just a budget issue; I still feel the sticker shock from the first time I tried to put together one of those cute boards with five or six different wedges on them, plus the crackers, breads, pickles, dried fruit, toasted almonds, olives, cured meats, and all of the other minimum requirements of our latter-day horns of plenty. But I was also put off by the waste. Even though so much went unfinished, the leftovers were unsalvageable, as fingers, forks, knives, and crumbs got into everything (a particularly shuddering thought in the age of Covid). Instead, when people come over, or what I remember of it, I prefer to focus on one or two decadent, attention-grabbing things and nothing grabs attention on a cold winter day like warm, runny cheese.
Baked brie was all the entertaining rage in the 1970s and 80s. Nothing was more glamorous but accessible, an imported cheese that everyone knew and could pronounce. But as Americans got more sophisticated about imported cheese — manchego! Humboldt Fog! — in a crushing fall from grace, brie became the opposite of chic. And this is where my interest piqued — dated and unhip, you say? Where can I sign up?
Thus, this is baked brie, my way. First, I use my easy galette dough for a flaky pastry that tastes a million times better than most frozen puffed pastry and requires no extra grocery store trip. I’ve never been a fan of the sweet compotes and fruity jams usually paired with brie, but I love a thin layer sweet-sour jammy red onions under and over the cheese — here, softened in butter, then wilted down further with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar. A paper-thin slick of smooth Dijon mustard offsets the sweetness, a sprinkling of thyme gives it an herbal element, a scattering of sesame seeds on top adds a little extra crackle, or you can skip all three and it’s still delicious. Brie — and yes, even commercial, grocery store brie works well here — is attainably-priced and even the basic stuff warms up beautifully, so no need to splurge here. Plus, it often comes in 8-ounce rounds, absolutely perfect for our tiny, at-home New Years celebrations this week to send 2020 packing.
The Year In Smitten Kitchen
I love looking up which recipes you cooked the most each year, and could anything be more apt for 2020 than an Ultimate Banana Bread? In a year with so much none of us liked, a bright spot for me was the way the simplicity of our Covid pantries nudged me towards simpler, core recipes in previous years I foolishly dismissed as not interesting enough. You know what’s interesting? Crispy crumbled potatoes, schmaltzy roast chicken, and what I hope will be the last classic vegetable lasagna you’ll ever need. And speaking of pantries, I wrote about how I “organize” (spoiler: it’s not) my SK pantry over here and while not a recipe, it was one of the most-read posts this year. You can view all top 16 recipes from this page or individually below.
Previously: Best of 2019, Best of 2018 (Savory, Sweet), Best of 2017 (Savory, Sweet), Best of 2016 (Savory, Sweet).
Happy New Year, friends. Thank you for spending some of your time with me.
6 months ago: Dulce de Leche Chocoflan
1 year ago: Banana Toffee Cake
2 year ago: Baklava Babka
3 years ago: Dutch Apple Pie
4 years ago: Homemade Irish Cream
5 years ago: Eggnog Waffles
6 years ago: Jelly Doughnuts and Endives with Orange and Almonds
7 years ago: Linzer Torte and Breakfast Slab Pie
8 years ago: Cashew Butter Balls
9 years ago: Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce
10 years ago: Iced Oatmeal Cookies and Broiled Mussels
11 years ago: Vanilla Roasted Pears and Creamed Mushrooms on Chive-Butter Toast
12 years ago: Cranberry-Vanilla Coffee Cake and Seven-Layer Cookies
13 years ago: Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies and Peanut Butter Cookies
14 years ago: Boozy Baked French Toast and Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti