If ever there were a perfect cheese, brie would easily rank in my top five. Dressed up or down, its creamy texture, bloomy rind and delicate flavor profile have made it a world-class cheese with enduring appeal. Enveloped in a shroud of crispy, flaky phyllo, it transforms into one of my all-time favorite appetizers and dinner party desserts.
The importation and sale of all cheese made with unpasteurized milk and aged less than 60 days were outlawed by the U.S. government in 2004, making true French brie contraband in America. Milk pasteurization neuters the development of many of the flavor and texture complexities, sacrificing much of the fruity flavor nuances of the original. Although the pasteurized brie found in America is milder and creamier, it is still totally worth serving, especially a good quality brie from a reputable cheesemonger.
You can serve it plain or draped with fruit jams and cranberry sauce. My favorite is with homemade cranberry sauce (recipe below) and a few roasted pistachios, making this wonderful cheese a decadent centerpiece to any gathering.