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Easy and Impressive: Hazelnut-Crusted Fried Brie

brie, hazelnutsI have a new way to win friends and influence people. It’s dead easy, but impressive. I haven’t met anyone yet who isn’t thrilled upon being presented with an oozy wedge of brie, wrapped in a crunchy, nutty exterior. It’s the perfect party food — you douse the wedges of brie in egg and then nuts ahead of time, then stash them away in the fridge to chill. Once you’re ready to serve them, give them a quick turn in about an inch of hot canola oil, and they’re ready to go. I’m tempted to put them on a stick next time — bamboo skewers or long wood coffee stirrers. Crunchy fried brie on a stick? Talk about winning friends and influencing people.

The original recipe called for them to be served on crostini, topped with jalapeño jelly (chutney would be nice, too), but they’re structurally sound enough not to need a toast to sit upon, and I think that might be a bit much. I like them straight-up, with a dab of pepper jelly if you have it, and I imagine they would go well on a bed of salad greens that have been tossed with vinaigrette. All you really need to do is pile them on a plate and walk them through your party, napkins in hand.

Hazelnut-Crusted Fried Brie

Adapted from Bon Appétit, November 1999

1 small wheel of brie, cut into wedges or quarters
1 cup hazelnuts or walnuts, almonds, pecans, or a combination
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
pinch salt
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. half & half

canola oil, for cooking

Freeze brie for 30 minutes. Finely chop nuts with sesame seeds, thyme and salt in the bowl of a food processor, then transfer to a shallow bowl. In another bowl, stir together the egg and cream with a fork. Remove cheese from freezer and dip each wedge into egg and then into nuts, turning to coat and pressing the nuts to help them adhere. (You should have a nice thick crust.) Cover with plastic and refrigerate until very cold, at least 45 minutes. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Pour about an inch of oil into a shallow pan or small skillet set over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. (A piece of bread should sizzle when dipped in.) Working in batches, fry brie a couple pieces at a time until deep golden brown, turning as needed. Transfer to paper towels to drain and serve immediately, while still warm.

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