Last night I went to a holiday party for my tennis friends. Everyone was asked to bring an appetizer. I knew my day was going to be packed, but I didn’t fret about what to make because as long as I have fillo shells in the freezer and brie in the fridge, I know I can make something that is going to be as pretty as it is tasty.
The versatile pre-cooked phyllo dough mini shells are the key to these quick appetizers. In the winter I add a slice of brie, cook until the cheese melts, and add a topping, such as Grandma’s Cranberry Chutney or homemade cranberry sauce. In the summer, I assemble a quick treat by putting a spoonful of chicken salad into each shell and topping it with half a grape.
Last night, at the tennis party, my friend and fabulous cook, Mindy showed up with a very similar appetizer to mine only her brie bites were topped with Oakley’s Spreadalicious Sweet and Hot Pepper Jelly and a yummy, lightly salted, toasted pecan. The mix of spicy-sweet pepper jelly, toasted pecans, savory brie, and the crunchy fillo shell kept me coming back for more. I intend to adopt her version.
About Oakley’s Spreadalicious Sweet and Hot Pepper Jelly
Before I moved to the South, I had not a clue what hot pepper jelly was. By my first Christmas here, I knew it well; hot pepper jelly poured over a brick of cream cheese and served with a bowl of Wheat Thins was the appetizer du jour back then.
Today, that spicy-sweet jelly, made from an assortment of sweet and hot peppers, is more likely to be spread over a log of goat cheese and sprinkled with toasted chopped nuts and a few leaves of thyme for color.
The recipe that follows is for the foundation of the brie bite: the fillo shell and melted brie. What you top it with is up to you. The beauty of this recipe is you can experiment with toppings based on what you have on hand.
Ingredients for 30 Brie Bites:
2 boxes pre-cooked Athens Mini Fillo Shells (15 shells per box)
8 ounces brie cheese
Sweet and hot pepper jelly or cranberry chutney
Toasted pecans, whole or chopped (recipe follows)
Thyme leaves (optional)
Preheat oven to 350º. Line a small roasting pan with parchment paper.
Remove the snowy white rind that covers the wheel of brie. Or, not. The rind is completely edible and whether to leave it or remove it is a personal choice. It adds a mushroomy taste that I’m not crazy about in these tarts, but am fine with when I eat brie unadorned on a cracker. Slice the brie into small square slices that will fit into the fillo shells.
Arrange fillo shells on the lined roasting pan. Place a cheese slice in each shell.
Bake for 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove pan from oven.
Top brie with a small blob of topping. Place pan back in the oven for a minute to warm the topping. Serve warm.
Mindy likes to toast pecans ahead of time with a bit of melted butter and a touch of seasoned salt mixed with sea salt. Her pecans, prepared this way, are addictive.
Lightly Salted Toasted Pecans
Preheat oven to 300º
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan. Turn heat off. Add one pound of pecans. Toss. Add one shake of seasoned salt and a sprinkle of sea salt. Toss. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread nuts in a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes or just until you can smell them in the oven. Addictive, I tell you.
In Nashville, you can buy Oakley’s Sweet and Hot Pepper Jelly in the Tennessee Products section of Kroger or in many gift shops around town. Out of towners can order it online.
Other crowd-pleasing appetizers:
Roasted Tamari Almonds
“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful and Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
50 Ways to Make a Frittata
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