By Marcia Pilgeram
Some mornings, sitting here with my omnipresent cup of hot coffee, l struggle to find 700-800 words to fill my column. For inspiration, I ponder past travels or recent restaurant experiences. Sometimes, I drag down my mother’s rooster-decorated wooden card file and thumb through the dog-eared recipe cards.
At times I worry that I am fresh out of ideas. But, recently, my neighbor Howard assured me, “Marcia, your well will never go dry.” I hope he’s right.
I never know what’s going to spark an idea that has “legs.” I’ve been mesmerized by street vendors worldwide: rice noodle makers in Bangkok, crêpiers in Paris, and ice cream rollers on the crowded streets of Siem Reap. On the other hand, caressing an old recipe card for a salmon loaf, scrawled in my mother’s familiar handwriting, might trigger an entire decade of childhood memories, mostly centered around food. I’ve done a lot more reaching inward this past couple of years, working off my vast food bank memory for ideas, as my outings have been infrequent and circumspect.
But this last weekend, I ventured out — I went to the Panida to see Young Frankenstein. Their COVID protocol was brilliant. The first weekend was for those of us who wanted to feel a little safer; proof of vaccination and masks were required. I walked out of the Panida, wholly blown away by the superb performances of the Lake Pend Oreille Repertory Theater actors. Not surprisingly, those thoughts segued right into Broadway — and instant recall of a dozen or so of my favorite trips to the Big Apple.
Those trips were business-related junkets to food or travel shows, so my transportation and lodging expenses were covered (along with the all-important meal per diem). I’d often brought Casey along to share the (expensive) room, and she’d explore the city while I worked.
We’d mostly skip breakfast and lunch on my free evenings, then dress up for fancy prix fixe dinners before heading to the theater. We made a great pair: I was there for the food and Casey was there for the shows. She didn’t care about delicate little appetizers, like a miniature baked brie, bedded upon mache (a small salad green) and drizzled with lingonberry glaze.
Before IG and Facebook (and much to the mortification of my children), I used to take dozens of fine-dining food photos for posterity. Then, I would use the pictures for inspiration and menu planning ideas and adapt my recipes once home.
I have a plethora of recipes I’ve created that haven’t found their way to my column; they’re too complicated or contain ingredients too obscure for sourcing in our neck of the woods. I’m happiest when I feel like my column and recipe have a kinship to a holiday or growing season that readers can relate to and would enjoy.
At times, I labor to find words that will add flavor to my tales, constantly recalling a comment from a long-ago business partner, “Marcia, sometimes, trying to follow your conversations is like watching a high-stakes ping-pong ball in action.” With that in mind, I continue to work on transitional brevity.
A friend often asks for a recipe I haven’t yet committed to paper. But, you can be sure — and once I’ve completed that onerous exercise of measuring and carefully testing — you’ll find it in an upcoming Reader.
If you aren’t ready to travel to New York, you can recreate my miniature baked brie experience with the accompanying recipe, followed by an evening at the Panida on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. or Sunday, Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. You don’t want to miss this Broadway-worthy performance of Young Frankenstein. Break a leg and bon appétit!
Mini brie en croûte recipe
Serve as appetizers or as an accompaniment to a luncheon salad with a cold sparkling wine. Makes 16 miniature pastries.
• 2 sheets thawed puff pastry (locally, Sara Lee in the freezer case)
• 8 oz wheel of French brie
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
While pastry is thawing, cut brie in half through perimeter (use serrated knife and sawing motion), so you have two full circles. Cut each round portion with a circle cookie cutter, so you have eight small pieces per circle. You can use your hands to pat into shape as needed.
When the pastry has thawed, unroll onto parchment paper or floured counter top. Roll the edges lightly, with a rolling pin, to increase size a bit. Cut each sheet into three rows, lengthwise, then four squares per long strip.
Spread a little jam, glaze or caramelized onions onto the square, top with a brie round in the center. Bring up the corners to meet in the middle, stretching as needed, but careful not to tear the dough. Twist the ends together to secure, making sure the brie is completely encased.
Set the pastries on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. With leftover dough, you can make decorative toppings or add herbs. Brush with egg wash before baking.
Don’t crowd as they will puff up while baking.
Bake for about 25 minutes, on middle oven rack, until golden brown.
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