Fancy is fun! Getting dolled up and sparkly is a welcomed rarity in the midst of my eat-cookie-butter-by-the-spoonful-in-my-stretchy-pants-and-Ugg-boots lifestyle. But fancy can also be draining. Glitz and glam don’t come free, y’all! Well, it’s the same with food. That’s why sneaky tricks that make gourmet food preparation easy and carefree are everything!
It’s faux fancy. And we don’t have to let anyone in on our dirty little secret.
I was invited to spend Christmas with my boyfriend’s practically professional chef of a mom. I helped the family unpack her newly renovated baker’s kitchen, and let me tell you, a kitchen that loaded belongs not to the shy of stove. These were high stakes, people, and I had to bring my A game. It was my opportunity to impress the panel with something really…well, fancy.
But I had also just road-tripped after flying a tiring four-day while recovering from the flu to my mom’s very limited pantry (thanks for hosting us, Mommy!) for an extremely short and action-packed holiday weekend. There was much to be done, many to be seen, and not a heck of a lot of time to fit it all in.
So while I was celebrating with my cousin’s family on Christmas Eve, we started looking through this great finger foods cookbook. Imagine, an entire book devoted to finger foods! Why hadn’t I thought of that?! Anyway, I came across a recipe for Goat Cheese and Apple Puff Pastry Tarts. I loved this concept. For starters, cheese and fruit is the perfect flavor combination. It’s salty and sweet, creamy and fresh. The two are so beautifully in sync, their partnership is both the envy and covet of all other food couples. Fruit and cheese is a fancy gourmet oeuvre that is laughably easy to prepare. Now set them atop a flaky, buttery pillow of puff pastry, and you’ve got yourself an impressive, yet effortless hors d’oeuvre. My mouth was watering just from thinking about the crispy crumbs.
At that, I knew I wanted to take this recipe and customize it. My boyfriend loves pears, possibly more than he loves me. And I think Brie is the bees’ knees. Together, they are magical. I decided to round out the flavor of the tarts with the savory-sweet richness of honey-caramelized onions. And I finished it all off with aromatic fresh thyme. Thus was born the Faux Fancy Pear and Brie Puffs.
A funny thing about me is that I have no clue how to cook for small groups. It’s the whole army, or nothing. I assume it stems from my upbringing of watching my mom cook for a biggish family. Whatever the reason, I can’t seem to get it right. So, of course I made way too many tarts for our dainty little group. When I came to the door boasting two large baking sheets full of puffy, peary goodness, they got some good laughs in about my intimate-group-cooking shortcomings.
Well, guess who ate just about every last tart! You betcha. I took it as bona fide proof that this elementary recipe had big, grown-up flavor. Joke’s on them!
Faux Fancy Pear and Brie Tarts
- frozen puff pastry (2 sheets)
- 10 oz. brie, sliced into 2 in squares
- 2 pears
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 t. honey
- Fresh thyme
- Coat the bottom of a pan with olive oil. Heat the pan on medium high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally until deeply brown. About 45 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 415°. Cut each puff pastry sheet into 4 squares and then each square into quarters. Set slightly apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Place sliced brie atop the pastry.
- Slice the pear thinly and evenly into 2-3 inch pieces.
- Sprinkle about a teaspoon of caramelized onions over the brie. Then fan out a few slices of pear on top of that. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves.
- Bake 20-25 minutes until the puff pastry is cooked through and golden brown along the edges.
IN ADVANCE: The pastry squares can be topped with the cheese, covered, and refrigerated over night. Slice the pear and top pastries just prior to baking.