Turn a simple wheel of brie cheese into a show stopping appetizer whose good looks are a perfect prelude to its wonderful balance of rich, sweet, warm and tangy flavors.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced, about 1 1/4 cups
- 1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2/3 cup port wine
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
- 2.2 pounds (1 kilo) Brie cheese wheel, chilled, halved horizontally
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Add the fennel, onion, garlic, sugar and thyme; cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender and lightly golden, 14-15 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and cook 1 minute. Add the port, bring to a boil and cook until evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Transfer to a bowl and cool 10 minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface roll out 1 pastry sheet into a 13-inch square and transfer to a shallow baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Set the bottom half of the cheese in the center of pastry, cut side up. Spread the cooled fennel mixture over the cheese then cover with the top half, cut side down. Stretching the dough slightly, if necessary, wrap it up and over the cheese, it will not cover the entire top. Brush the sides of the pastry with some of the egg. Roll out the remaining pastry sheet, on a lightly floured surface, into a 13-inch square. Set over the top of the cheese, trimming the 4 corners slightly, and snugly wrap over the wheel, tucking excess pastry underneath. Brush the outside completely with egg. If desired, cut leaf shapes from the trimmings and decorate top. Refrigerate, uncovered, 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Bake the cheese until the pastry is golden and puffed, about 20-22 minutes. Cool 20 minutes then transfer to a platter before serving.