Poires et Fromage de Brie

Pears with Brie Cheese

As Rabelais said, “creamy ripe pears and ripe Brie make the perfect wedding.”

Ingredients

  • 6 ripe Anjou pears
  • 1 ripe Brie cheese

Method

To ripen pears. Put pears (or any fruit) on a cool window sill where no sun hits the fruit. Turn the fruit each day until the flesh, at the stem end, gives when gently pushed. Try to use the same pear for testing; pushing damages the fruit. When the fruit is ripe, refrigerate it until needed. Like cheese, fruit should be served at room temperature (70 degrees).

To ripen Brie cheese. In late autumn buy a whole Brie, the 10- to 12-inchin-diameter size. Ask to see the cheese out of its thin wooden box. Feel the cheese. Buy the cheese that does not give when you push it and that feels hard. (It will feel a bit hard because it will be cold, but push enough to judge that it is still firm under its coldness.) Do not buy a Brie that the clerk tells you is ready to eat—trust yourself to ripen the cheese—but if you want it to eat immediately, ask to buy a piece and then you can judge its ripeness. If there is a firm, white line through the middle of the cheese it is not ready to eat. If it is totally runny and the outside dark and dry looking the cheese is too old. Therefore, it is better to buy a “green” cheese and ripen it yourself.

Once you have the “green” cheese, leave it in its flimsy wooden box, at room temperature (70 degrees), for about 24 hours. Then refrigerate it for 24 hours. Do this 2 times. Test it each time by feeling the cheese. Remove the cheese from its box and with your thumb on the bottom and your finger on top, gently press the cheese together. As the cheese ripens you will be able to feel the softness develop toward the middle and thus determine how much green cheese still remains in the middle. Continue to ripen the cheese with warmth and cold until the cheese feels totally soft to your fingers. Train your fingers to judge the ripeness of both Brie and Camembert. Experience alone will teach you.

When the cheese is ripe, cut it into serving wedges and quickly wrap the cut edges tightly in transparent wrap so that the soft cheese does not run out of the white crust. Make the pieces of cheese the size you will want to serve. Wrap and freeze. Save one wedge to eat with French bread so that you can appreciate how good a truly ripe Brie can be. In freezing, the cheese loses flavor, but it is better to have it with a little less flavor than to have an unripe, or an old, strong Brie. Thaw the cheese, then unwrap and serve at room temperature.

Creamed Brie. When Brie is left over and becomes somewhat dry, cut the white crust from it, put into a small plastic dish, or a glass, cover with a Barsac or sauterne wine and let the cheese marinate for 24 hours. Drain off the wine (save it to cook with, or discard) and blend the cheese with an equal amount of sweet butter. Shape the mixture into a round cake, coat with fine, dry bread crumbs, wrap, and refrigerate. Serve with French bread.

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