The dwarf suspiciously picked up the small square of pastry, which immediately crumbled between his large, cumbersome fingers. “What is this devilry?” roared the hungry dwarf. “Have you shrunken our feast with your elven magicks?”
The elf server sneered at the the dwarf. “This, master dwarf, is but a preamble for the feast ahead.”
The dwarf grumbled. “There’s no point in baiting a dwarf’s appetite.”
My office holds charity potlucks every few months, and for our fall potluck we decided to incorporate a contest into the feast, so I knew I had to step up my game. Unfortunately, this dish didn’t win (the prize went to caprese salad skewers, gotta hand it to this simple but delicious dish), but I still got a lot of compliments!
The problems with cooking for a potluck is 1) the dish needs to be prepped the night before (For some reason clients don’t take “Hold on, I need to peel and cut these apples” as an excuse for a late report.) and 2) there is limited fridge/freezer space and only one tiny toaster oven available in the office kitchen. Therefore, your dish needs to come in a crock pot, be reheat-able in a microwave, or served cold.
My original idea was to make one of my favorite appetizers: baked brie, but I knew it would be impossible to achieve that melty deliciousness sans oven. So I made up this fun, alternative appetizer.
Apple & Brie Puff Pastries
(Yields about 40 small amuse bouche portions)
1 large wedge of brie
2 9×9 inch sheets of puff pastry (I use Trader Joe’s Artisan Puff Pastry)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 strips of bacon
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Small, non-stick skillet
2 cookie sheets
1 medium sandwich bag
The first step is to cook the puff pastry according to the directions on the box. I know, I really should try a hand at making my own puff pastry. However, my grandmother, who I revere as the god, cthulhu, flying spaghetti monster (whatever you worship) of all things cooking and baking, told me that she always uses frozen pie crust and puff pastry because she decided long ago that it’s not worth the effort and yours probably won’t turn out much better. That’s enough justification for me.
However, to make you feel better, you can season the pastry with a little butter and some nice herbs before you place it on a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet and pop it in the oven. The Trader Joe’s box said to bake it at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, which worked out pretty well for me. Just make sure the top is golden brown and the edges aren’t burnt.
Combine the lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until it is a fairly watery solution.
While the pastry is baking, peel and cut the apples into very thin slices, then cut those slices in half. Put the slices immediately in the lemon juice solution to stop the apples from oxidizing and turning brown (it’s science!). Then mix your apples and sugary lemon juice with a spoon so all the apples are completely soaked in the solution.
Also cut the brie into thin slices (about 1/4 inch width), and cut those slices into small squares.
Fry up your strips of bacon in the skillet until it is extra crispy. Let cool, and remove excess grease with a clean paper towel. Turn these bacon strips into bacon bits by putting the bacon into a sandwich bag and crushing with your hands until it is confetti-sized (Mmmm, picturing a parade with bacon confetti now).
If your sliced almonds are too big, you can use the sandwich bag method again to get them down to a smaller size.
After your puff pastry has baked and cooled, cut the pastry into 2×2 inch squares. Individually layer each pastry square with one square of brie and one apple slice. It’s best to have the apple on top to prevent the pastry from getting soggy. Sprinkle the almonds and bacon over your pastry squares.
Voila! Now you have the perfect fall appetizer!