There’s something extra-special about being served your own personal mini treat, as opposed to a slice or a piece of a bigger dish. An individual pot-pie served in a pretty ramekin looks like it was prepared just for you rather than a portion scooped from a large casserole dish and plopped onto a plate. A tidy lemon tartlet covered in a circle of meringue with golden brown peaks looks much more appetizing than an uneven slice cut from one large pie. Whenever possible, I like to take an individualized twist with my recipes–both sweet and savory–and transform them into smaller sizes to create what I hope will be a more personal touch for the recipient.
As part of the Epicurious “Personal Touches in the Kitchen” Series, I was asked to blog about an experience that I have had as a diner or a consumer and how that experience transformed the way that I do things in the kitchen. I’ve mentioned several times over the years that Eric and I are regulars at a Las Vegas neighborhood restaurant called Table 34. Before we had Gigi, it wasn’t uncommon for us to show up there once a week for dinner. Now, with an infant, we’re not quite the “regulars” that we used to be, but we still go there when we can.
In a town like Las Vegas, where new restaurants open every week (if not every day), it takes a special experience to draw diners away from something new and trendy in lieu of the something they’ve tried before. Situated away from The Strip in an unassuming strip-mall, Table 34 is almost the anti-Vegas: cozy, laid back and unpretentious. The staff remembers your name, what drink you like to have on a Friday night after a long work week and how you like your steak prepared. It’s comfortable and familiar–a great place to relax with fantastic, thoughtful food that is always beautifully presented.
One of Eric’s go-to dishes at Table 34 is their baked brie appetizer, an individualized version of the popular party food, which is what inspired me to start serving my recipes in miniature format. Chef Wes Kendrick takes a wedge of creamy brie, tops it with a tangy sundried tomato jam and wraps it in buttery-rich puff pastry which, when baked, transforms into a golden brown and crispy exterior for the melted gooey brie. The dish arrives hot from the oven like a delicious package set on a bed of mixed greens. Every time we go, Eric says that he might try something different, but nine times out of ten, he picks this dish….and I’m always jealous of him when it arrives.
This recipe was inspired by Eric’s go-to appetizer, but I’ve made it a little bit healthier by using phyllo dough instead of puff pastry. Layers of crisp phyllo dough brushed with butter still bake up golden brown, buttery and flaky, but the overall effect is a much lighter dish. I paired the brie with a spiced blueberry chutney and, instead of wrapping entire wedges of brie, I made mini strudel shapes by wrapping smaller, bite-sized pieces. That way, when you want another one (and I know that you will), you won’t feel the least bit guilty about going back for seconds.
Enjoy! Check out the rest of the “Out of the Kitchen” Series via this link!
Inspired by one of my husband's favorite appetizers at our neighborhood restaurant, these mini savory strudels make a fun party bite or a dinner party first course.
- 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 32-40 sheets thawed phyllo/fillo dough
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 12 ounces brie, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Prepare the chutney: In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries, brown sugar, onion, jalapeno, garlic, raisins, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, red pepper and salt; bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the mixture for 25 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and cool completely.
- Heat your oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Prepare the strudels (refer to step by step photos above for additional help!): Place 1 sheet of phyllo on a clean work surface, short side facing you. Cover remaining sheets with a damp towel to prevent drying.
- Brush the sheet of phyllo with melted butter, and then top it with a second sheet of phyllo.
- Place about 1-1/2 tbsp of the cooled chutney on the bottom center of the phyllo, leaving a border at the bottom and the sides. Top the chutney with 1 piece of brie.
- Carefully fold both sides of phyllo over the filling, so that they meet and overlap, covering the filling completely.
- Brush the top surface of the phyllo rectangle with melted butter.
- Fold the border on the bottom over the filling and phyllo, then fold the packet onto the dough, continuing to fold until you reach the end. Press the end to seal the packet (use an additional dab of melted butter, if necessary.)
- Transfer the packet to the prepared baking sheet, seam-side down. Brush the top of the strudel with melted butter.
- Repeat the process with the remaining sheets of phyllo, chutney and brie.
- Bake the strudels for about 25 minutes, or until they are crisp and deep golden brown, switching positions of baking sheets halfway through the baking process. Serve warm while the cheese is still melted!!
Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.com’s “Out of the Kitchen”, an ongoing exploration of the relationships that build and sustain the food industry. See how hyper-local food markets operate and how their focus on quality and service keep customers coming back for more.