A Bittersweet Conference...

I had thought to jam this out quickly, snap a few photos, lick the plate, jot down a recipe and send it off into the abyss.  But for those who know me well, thinking, and thinking some more, and then thinking a little bit more, is more my speed.  I've been thinking even more than usual this week, after hearing some news that's been hard to process.  Today, New Year's Eve, keeping busy putting the final touches on an extra special batch of jam, I'm thinking back, and ahead, and about what it means to celebrate, all at the same time. 

I've celebrated a few times already with this recipe for Brie en Croute (Brie in a pastry crust), with our Bittersweet Chocolate Conference Pear preserves.  Made with Conference pears from one lone Orcas tree, we exuberantly celebrate them with a generous amount of 70% bittersweet chocolate and an extra squeeze of organic lemon.  It's sweet, yet not too much, just enough bitter, and balanced with a tart finish like a good orange stick (ala orangettes).  Spooned between a crosswise halved wedge of Brie, wrapped in puff pastry (the store-bought frozen stuff is genius and phyllo dough also works in a pinch), baked and dusted with Salish sea salt, it says celebrate, like only certain foods can.   I made it last on Christmas Eve, and we merrily ate every last morsel. 

You should make this.  You should make this now.  You have until midnight tonight to savor this year past with the revelers, or to bite slowly into the new year, and quietly step forward with a loved one.  That’s what I’ll be doing, sharing an intimate evening together with my husband and one-year old son, thinking back, and wishing forward to more celebrations, more living, more morsels of deliciousness that make us realize the good life stands right before us.

Celebrating.  For the past several years, we had the joy of celebrating with a much older and much wiser friend named Gary, who came to our little island every October with his beautiful and regal wife to celebrate the month away in a tiny cabin with a view.  Gary never missed a chance to celebrate, most memorably with food, which he prepared with gusto.  Together at his table, we celebrated a fresh catch of Dungeness, an extra special bottle of bourbon, homemade pates, shrimp flown in from the gulf, lobster fedexed from Maine, a perfect stir-less risotto, and one extra delicious mess of ice cream, home cured Rainier maraschino cherries, & bittersweet chocolate layered into one magnificent ball called “Jasper’s Tartufo”. 

I found out this week that he left this world on Christmas Eve, thousands of miles from me, as I was licking clean my plate.  Both circumstances seem fitting - that a man larger than life left his on Christmas Eve, and that I was deep in chocolate and cheese, butter & flour.  

I’m stirring this 'Belle Helene' inspired preserve, thick as the most indulgent chocolate sauce, rich with chunks of pears, and I keep thinking about Gary, a modern Escoffier in his own right.  As I dollop it over a triple crème (because why stop at double crème?), I see him smile.  He never settled, gave the world’s biggest hugs, and always found a reason to celebrate. 

Some people celebrate better than others, but let’s give this a shot together tonight.  Perhaps it is a bittersweet conference – the meeting of one year with the next, passing along its duties and baggage – but we all know how delicious bittersweet can be.  Happy New Year friends.  I’ll be at home, eating Brie en Croute, chocolate on my lips, toasting to Gary.   

Brie en Croute with Girl Meets Dirt Bittersweet Chocolate Conference Pear Preserves

Ingredients
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, pre-packaged

1/2 jar pear preserves (we recommend our Bittersweet Conference or Orcas Pear with Bay)
1 (8-ounce) wheel Brie or wedge of triple creme
1 egg, beaten
Crackers & extra jam, for serving

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Defrost puff pastry or phyllo dough for approximately 15 to 20 minutes and unfold.

If you're using a wheel of brie, cut it crosswise and spoon in half a jar of pear preserves (this is also wonderful with our Orcas Pear with Bay), and place the remaining piece of brie on top like a sandwich.  If you're using a triple creme like St. Andre or Delice de Bougogne, cut it crosswise and lay each piece side by side- spoon the jam on top without sandwiching.  Lay the puff pastry out on a flat surface. Place the brie in the center of the pastry. Gather up the edges of the pastry, pressing around the brie and gather at the top. Gently squeeze together the excess dough.  Tie together with a piece of kitchen twine if necessary, but I usually just bring it together with my hands.. Brush the beaten egg over top and side of pastry.  Dust with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt.  Place the pastry wrapped brie on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes until pastry is golden brown.

Serve with crackers, and extra jam.