Ever notice there’s an inverse correlation between the number of days ‘til Christmas and your stress level? The presents, the food, the parties…your diet’s disappearing act. To make things worse you’ve got Pinterest taunting you; a daily reminder that there are people in the world, maybe even down the block, who are making multi-tiered Christmas Jell-O shots and wreath-shaped Stromboli.
Ain’t nobody got time to compete with Martha this time a year, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want your friends and family to rave over the dish you brought to the party. When my life gets busy, I usually find that simplicity rules the day, especially when it comes to cooking. I like to choose a few really good ingredients and let them speak for themselves.
This year I hosted my very first party in Louisville, toasting the holiday season with an Ugly Sweater fete of epic proportions. Of course my friends came through with some truly heinous ensembles, but the food spread was really the highlight of the evening. My dining room table was no match for the dozens of tasty treats that ranged from scallion crepes to vegan buffalo “chicken” “cheese” dip. My contribution to the festivities was a baked brie with cranberry compote number…because who doesn’t love rich, warm, oozing cheese?
This recipe is super easy, fast, and most importantly, delicious. When party goers realized there was a wheel of brie baking in the oven, my friends migrated to the kitchen to wait for its debut. While I realize the congregation in the kitchen had nothing to do with my cooking prowess and everything to do with the power of French cheese, you’ll feel like a bad ass too when your friends follow you in single file from the oven to the table.
A couple of notes about the ingredients: as I mentioned above, choose quality ingredients when you’re making them the star. I’m a huge fan of Costco in general, but they really go above and beyond in the cheese department. For less than ten bucks you can get an entire wheel of authentically French brie cheese and enough cranberries to get you through Thanksgiving and Christmas. Throw in some Breton’s wheat crackers, you know the ones that have a subtle sweet, gingerbread-y flavor, and your friends and family can’t help but feel fancy.
Bust out this dish for your Christmas party, New Year’s celebration, or any cocktail merrymaking, and I promise, you’ll get invited back again and again.
1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup maple
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped
Heat water and orange juice in a large sauté pan on high heat until boiling. Add cranberries and bring mixture back to a boil. Cook 2-3 minutes at a rolling boil. Turn heat down to medium-low, add the bourbon, and simmer for 4-5 minutes until thickened slightly. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Transfer mixture to a storage container and cool in the refrigerator until completely chilled. This recipe will give you more cranberry sauce than you can pile on top of one wheel of brie so I recommend saving the leftovers and adding them to ice cream or oatmeal or yogurt or a pork chop or turkey sandwiches…really, put it on an old shoe, it’ll taste delicious on anything.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place wedge of brie on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake the brie for 30 minutes or until the skin of the cheese begins to soften. You may see some of the cheese begin to ooze out of the skin. Remove from the oven and transfer to serving tray. Top with chilled cranberry sauce and scatter chopped thyme. Serve with crackers or French bread.