A few weeks ago my age and genetic disposition caught up with me and I was hobbling around all weekend like an old lady thanks to what was probably another passing kidney stone. The Vegetarian, kind soul and patient man that he is, stuck me in a car one evening and took me out for dinner hoping to lift my spirits. Despite my Frankensteinesque walk to the restaurant, we found our way to a cozy and glowing izakaya on an otherwise dry and nondescript Sunday evening. This was the first time I considered taking The Vegetarian to a place like this since, you know, he loves the animals and such, including fish, and much of the menu involves sushi items and seafood. But this place is a little gem that has so far, despite a few quirks in service, impressed me and I knew there would be plenty of things for him to eat.
The beauty of the izakaya style restaurant is that one can order small plates, much like my favorite way of eating through Spain, one pintxo or tapa at a time. With my faculties and internal organs waging war inside me, I thought this was a brilliant idea. The ginger cosmo with yazi ginger vodka didn’t hurt either. Girlie, yes. Potent, absolutely. I convinced The Vegetarian to try something called Shiso Cheese Stix- an interesting combination of ingredients using shiso, a beautiful little jagged-edge herb belonging to the mint family, brie and sesame wontons. I wish I would have taken a picture, but I didn’t want to be that girl, so I ate my wontons like a normal person, camera securely out of reach. The dipping sauce that came with this dish was a bit too harsh and vinegary so I switched to a little soy and thus, my friends, came the inspiration for this next recipe. It was like rubbing two sticks together and making fire. How had I not experienced this amazing combination of sultry brie and soy before?
So if you’ve ever wondered where inspiration comes from, or how to find some when you’re lacking, take a little jaunt through your own neighborhood. Find your own local gems and get in on some new flavors. As an aside, while no animals were harmed in the eating of this dinner, The Vegetarian did manage to get spicy salt in his eye from the crunchy little fried spaghetti sticks that came with those tasty wontons. We make quite the pair.
I’m fortunate to have a small, local produce stand that sells all sorts of exotic ingredients like some of the mushrooms featured in this recipe. If you can’t find these mushrooms, mix and match any of your personal favorites. As long as you have roughly the same amount you should be fine. I wasn’t sure if the amount of mushrooms was going to cause too much moisture so I erred on the safe side and used a smaller quantity. I love mushrooms so would probably add another ounce or two when I make this recipe again.
Puff pastry often comes in a two-sheet package. You’re going to love this recipe so much you may as well buy two wheels of brie and just use the entire package of puff pastry all at once. If I didn’t have someone in my life who loves brie as much as I do, I would have eaten this whole thing myself. It is good!
Baked Brie With Japanese Mushrooms
2 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
2 oz white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 oz enoki mushrooms, root end removed, separated
1 oz bunashimeji or beech mushrooms, root end removed, separated
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1- 8 oz wheel of brie, rind intact
1 full sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon water
1-2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
Thaw puff pastry in the refrigerator for about 40 minutes or until pliable but not too soft or sticky.
In a saute pan, warm oil over medium heat. Add in sliced shiitake and button mushrooms and saute for about 2 minutes or until mushrooms have softened.
Add in unsalted butter and turn heat to low. Add in remaining mushrooms, rosemary, garlic and soy sauce. Stir and remove from heat. Mushrooms should be soft but not mushy.
Preheat oven to 400°.
In a small bowl, whisk egg with water and set aside.
Sprinkle countertop with flour and lightly roll out one sheet of puff pastry just to help flatten the creases. Using your wheel of brie as a guide, place it in the center of the puff pastry and use a pizza cutter or paring knife to cut a circle around the outside of the brie. You’ll want to leave about 1 1/2-2 inches of dough around the cheese. Reserve the remaining scraps for decoration. Set wheel of brie aside.
Place puff pastry round onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Top with mushroom mixture and then brie. Bring pastry dough up and as far on top of the brie as it will stretch. I used some of the scrap to make a round seal to cover any uncovered cheese. Turn entire bundle over so that the seam side is down. Use remaining scrap to make leaves or any other decoration you like.
Brush entire bundle with egg wash and place on the middle rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Rotate baking sheet halfway through to ensure even browning. Remove from oven and serve warm.