Christmas Starter - Deep Fried Brie with a Pear & Walnut Salad and Cranberry Sauce

Christmas dinner can sometimes seem like rather a stressful affair. In years gone by I often found myself
spending the best part of two days preparing and cooking for one meal. Eventually, I realised that after all what is it only a family dinner, just a little more extravagant than what I make every other day. I know many are beginning to steer away from the traditional turkey dinner, but for me turkey with all the trimmings is the meal I most look forward to over the Christmas season. I always serve gravy, using Jamie Oliver's Make-Ahead Gravy recipe, bread sauce and cranberry sauce, with the Christmas dinner. I posted my favourite bread sauce recipe last year, if you would like to try it out. I'm sure you'll love it as much as I do. Of course a very important part of any turkey and ham dinner is a good serving of stuffing. This year I will make the same as last, my Sage, Date & Pine Nut Stuffing; covered with that yummy homemade gravy I could eat this as a meal in itself!
I'm all for preparing some of the dishes well before a big event. Any sauce or gravy will freeze perfectly, only to be taken from the freezer Christmas Eve, popped in the fridge and then reheated just before serving Christmas dinner. Cranberry sauce can be made in advance and doesn't even need to be frozen, as it will keep perfectly in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. I love a good dollop of some sweet and tangy cranberry sauce served alongside any white meat but it also makes a fantastic dipping sauce for breaded brie, which happens to be my boys' starter of choice for Christmas day. This is a luxuriously delicious dish that would serves well as a starter but it also quite good as a canapĂ© for a Christmas drinks party, minus the salad. The brie can be prepared early in the day and refrigerated until needed. Just two small pieces of brie would be completely sufficient as a starter. After all it is the appetiser to what is normally considered a day’s worth of calories on one plate.

300g Brie, cut into 8 wedges, with most of the thick skin trimmed off
2 eggs, beaten
Plain flour seasoned with a little salt and black pepper
80g Paxo golden breadcrumbs
Olive or sunflower oil for deep-frying

1. Dip the Brie wedges first in the flour then in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs, and again in the egg and again in the breadcrumbs. 
2. Fill a wok one-quarter-full of the oil, or alternatively just use a deep fat fryer. 
3. The oil is ready when you drop a breadcrumb in and it sizzles. (CAUTION: hot oil is ever so dangerous; never leave unattended). 
4.When the oil is ready, add the breaded Brie and deep fry until golden brown on each side and the cheese has melted in the centre -about 2-3 mins. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

For Salad:
100g mixed salad leaves
1 ripe pear, cut into slices
25g walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
½ red onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp salad dressing of choice

To Serve:
Place the salad leaves, sliced pear, chopped walnuts and finely sliced onion into a small bowl.
Drizzle with a little salad dressing. Divide between four plates. 
Serve with the Deep Fried Brie and a large spoonful of the cranberry sauce{homemade or shop bought} on the side.

Cranberry Sauce
The cranberry sauce can of course be shop bought however as it is so easy to make, I'd recommend to make a little jar of the homemade variety. The sauce can be kept plain if preferred but I like to have a citrus kick from mine. If you are planning to serve this alongside the brie and the turkey, then make double the quantity.

      350g fresh/frozen cranberries
      200g caster sugar 
      75ml water
      Zest of ½ an orange
      50ml Cointreau 

Put the cranberries, sugar, water and orange zest into a saucepan and let it bubble away until the berries start to pop, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon, which will take about 10 minutes. Give the sauce a good stir and crush down any remaining full berries. Stir in the Cointreau. Carefully taste a little of the sauce, to check whether it needs more sugar. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. If cooked a few days in advance, reheat a little and give the sauce a good mashing with a fork before serving.

This post and recipe were published in The Westmeath Independent on the Dec 5th. 


Sue/the view from great island said...

I love your deep fried Brie---it's over the top but so delicious, kind of like the American Midwest's fried Snickers Bars! I posted about Brie today, too!

Nessa Robins said...

Thanks Sue. I must check out your post. Happy Christmas.

Life, Loves and...... said...

oh this is so up my alley
sounds and looks yum
Happy Christmas

Cross My Apple Tart said...

This looks absolutely delicious Nessa. Hope you had a good break over Christmas, I'm sure your Dad was watching over. Happy New Year. x

Nessa Robins said...

Thank you J. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.
Thanks Adrienne. I've been doing very little, for the past couple of weeks, so it has been a nice break. Hope you had an enjoyable Christmas and best wishes for 2013.

From Beyond My Kitchen Window said...

This looks so good. I am a huge fan of cheese and fried cheese makes my mouth start to water.

Unknown said...

I might alter from the usual prawn/smoked salmon starter this year and try this out!! It looks lovely Nessa :-)

Nessa Robins said...

Thanks Nollaig. My boys absolutely adore brie served this way. If you try it let me know how it turns out. Happy Christmas :)