Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Warm Brie with Spiced Whole-Berry Cranberry Sauce

brie with spiced cranberry sauce recipe
I love cranberries, and not just during the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas-to-New-Year's holiday run. In fact, when fresh whole cranberries go on sale at the end of the holiday season, I always buy several bags to keep in my freezer and enjoy throughout the winter and beyond, in everything from cranberry bread to savory sauces for venison and other robust red meats, and even for adding to hot cereal as it cooks on the stove (when I do that I also add plenty of real maple syrup or honey to balance out the tartness of the berries).

My spiced cranberry sauce is a sweet and zesty substitute for the canned cranberry sauce that usually accompanies turkey -- but it is far too tasty (in my not-so-humble opinion) to be relegated solely to the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table. Indeed, this sauce truly shines when paired with warm brie or any other rich, creamy cheese, even everyday cream cheese. It's also wonderful spooned over cheesecake, bread pudding, and even vanilla ice cream. Elegant enough for the holidays but simple enough for any day, I dare you to serve this delectable appetizer as part of your game-day spread this Sunday for the big game, or any time other than November and December. Trust me, your family or guests will not be disappointed!

Verjus du Perigord-25.35 oz.1 12oz bag whole cranberries
1 cup verjus*
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 Tbs freshly grated orange zest

A whole or partial round of brie cheese
Crackers or baguette (or other similar bread) slices.

*Verjus is the unfermented tart juice pressed from unripe green or red grapes. You can use either in this recipe. It does not contain alcohol and can be used in place of vinegar in most recipes for a more "wine friendly" flavor, making it a favorite of chefs and cooks who like to serve wine with a meal. Verjus is less acidic than vinegar and is wonderful as a marinade or as the base for other sauces. You can buy verjus online, or substitute white wine vinegar or even ordinary distilled vinegar -- but you might want to add more sugar if the sauce seems too tart for your taste.

recipe for whole-berry cranberry sauce
Place all ingredients except the cranberries in a small saucepan that will be large enough for you to add the cranberries. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring from time to time, until most of the berries have popped (this should take about 10 minutes) and the sauce is thick. Remove from heat, allow to cool, then transfer to a non-metal bowl and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (several hours or overnight). Makes 2 cups, and keeps in the refrigerator at least a couple of weeks.

To serve with brie: If you've bought a whole round of brie (a young brie is best for this, not an aged runny brie), there should be instructions on the package for how to warm in your oven or microwave. If not, then place the round (or part of a round if that's what you have) on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes until warmed through and slightly runny when you cut into it. Although some people cut the top rind off the brie before warming, I leave it on -- it's edible, too. Place the warmed brie on a serving plate and spoon as much of the spiced cranberry sauce over it as you'd like. Serve with crackers or crusty bread slices.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you're like me and love the flavor of cranberries, be sure to try Toad Sweat Cranberry Dessert Hot Sauce, a sweet & spicy all-natural hot sauce you can use with everything from turkey or pork to creamy cheeses and desserts like cheesecake, ice cream & more. Another favorite is this savory-sweet and peppery-hot cranberry salsa, which you can enjoy just like any other salsa.

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