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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


A simple but great New Year’s plate

As Christmas draws to an end, it is time to realize in the words of Ed Asner’s Santa Clause, “You know what that means; it’s time to get ready for next Christmas!”
As the days dwindle on and the family visits and travel come to a close, it’s time to sit back and take a quick breather before we start with the New Year’s preparations. Not expecting too wild an evening, I, of course, need to figure out something that we’ll take to our friends’ house.
The first thing that comes to mind is Capt. Monty Hawkin’s bluefish, but we’ve eaten all of that. I think at one point we had about a 100 pounds of blues at school that my students and I broke down, brined and smoked. We made traditional smoked bluefish, salt-free and spicy. We were on a roll, and then the blasted fish stopped biting. So, as time has moved on, so has the bluefish.
My mind immediately goes to a fruit and cheese, but seriously, who eats the fruit and cheese tray at parties? As a chef, I was constantly surprised that they were still even sold at large banquets. Now, I like a good platter with assorted cheeses and salume as well as marinated artichokes, olives et al, but most of the time the BEOs (Banquet Event Orders) instructed us to build the ubiquitous platter adorned with pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes, berries, Cheddar, Swiss and Pepper Jack cheese cubes, most of which would go into the trash bin at the end of the evening.
But as the mighty ham has progressed from one spiked with cloves and Maraschino cherries to one house-cured and smoked, so has the platter evolved, and thank goodness for that.
Of course, I say this tongue-in-cheek because the platter I made for New Year’s was just as old-school as the cheese cubes, but it looks cooler and will definitely leave a better impression on the guests. My Uncle Tom used to make this every Christmas Eve and I’ve never forgotten it. It’s simple, delicious and the perfect main item on a platter.
The secret is to take a block of Brie, wrap it in puff pastry after topping it with sweet preserves of your choosing, and baking it into a hot, gooey mess. I don’t know about you, but this is the perfect combination of flavors to accompany a glass of Chardonnay or Prosecco.
As the holidays come to an end, I hope that everyone has taken the time to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly, and I certainly hope that everyone has a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015. Many cheers.
Baked Brie Platter
For 6 guests
1 8 oz. piece of Brie
Puff pastry, as needed
2 Tbsp. Apricot Preserves
2 ea. Gala Apples
1 c. Spiced nuts recipe follows)
Assorted salume, as needed
Crackers and toast points, as needed
Assorted cheeses
1/2 c. Onion Jam (recipe follows)
Black salt to taste
Roll the puff pastry out until it is about 1/8” thick.
Pick a presentation side (the one with the fewest mars) and place that side down on a cutting board.
Spread some preserves on the pastry and then place the cheese on top of this.
Cut excess pastry away, leaving enough to be able to wrap around the block.
Wet the edges with water and seal the pastry and turn over
Mold the cheese with your hands to make it very smooth and refrigerate.
Remove after at least one hour to ensure that the pastry is chilled. This is very important so as to avoid any sagging in the dough.
Brush with an egg wash (optional) to improve appearance. This is completely optional, though, since the pastry is so high in fat as it is.
When ready to cook, place in a 375F oven until the cheese is hot and gooey and the pastry is a golden brown.
Remove and allow to rest for five minutes. Serve with crackers, toast points and anything else you think would go well on a holiday platter … or sadly, a post-holiday platter.
Spiced Nuts
Makes 3 cups
1 c. Cashews
1 c. Pecans
1 c. Walnuts
1 tsp. Olive oil
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Granulated garlic
1/4 tsp. Onion powder
1/4 tsp. Paprika
1/4 tsp. Black pepper
Toss all ingredients together and roast at 375F until you can smell the spices toasting and the nuts start to take on an aroma of their own
Cool and serve. Keep in an airtight container for up to a week
Onion Jam
Makes 1 cup
1 Tbsp. Whole butter
1 large red onion
1 shallot
1/2 c. Red wine
1/2 c. Port wine
1/2 c. Brown sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste
In a saucepan, melt the butter but do not let get too hot.
Add the onion and shallot and sweat for 20 minutes.
Add the wines and sugar and cook slowly for at least an hour and probably longer, or until the onions are very soft. Do not reduce the liquid too fast. After this cools down, it will thicken significantly.
Cool to room temperature or chill if serving cold.