Baking camembert in the oven turns it into a tasty fondue for two.
When it comes to cheese, I’m with Cole Porter…and camembert is the top. (Scroll to the end of the post for the video/song reference.) And I am not alone in loving the comforting, pungent creaminess of a squat wedge of camembert spread unevenly on a slice (or several slices) of bread. Camembert is EVERYONE in France’s favorite cheese. Because of Camembert’s universal popularity, France is a land where an ongoing Camembert craving like mine won’t break the bank: my favorite brand of the Norman cheese costs under $4 at the local supermarket. So there is always a wheel (or two) in my fridge.
One fine day when I was trying to think of a way to pass off my supermarket Camembert as a cheese course at a last-minute dinner party, I decided to do a baked Camembert (or ‘roasted Camembert’ –Camembert rôti.—as they call it in French). The internet offered me all kinds of ways to swank it up with sprigs of thyme, drizzles of honey, dollops of fig jam, garlic, rosemary, bacon bits and the like, but I went with a plain wheel popped back into its box and roasted in the oven for half an hour. It was the hit of the evening and by the end of my cheese course, my guests were dipping their bread directly into the molten cheese and prying off pieces of rind with their fingers in a fondue-like frenzy. (This, in a country where people eat pizza with a fork and knife and use a spoon to dollop guacamole on their tortilla chips!)
And then it came to me: Fondue for two!
The next time I served baked Camembert, it was for a cozy tête à tête by the fire. Good bread, good wine, and big green salad turned it into a lusciously indulgent meal that required very little work or washing up—though melted Camembert drips stick like crazy to plates and spoon bowls!
1 wheel (about 8 oz./250 g.) Camembert cheese
slices of bread or toast, steamed or roasted vegetables, etc.
salt, pepper, fruit jam, nuts, optional
Preheat the oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Remove the Camembert from its casing (wood or cardboard) and wrapper. Cut a square of parchment paper the size of the Camembert wrapper (or thereabouts), set the wheel of cheese on top of it, and then put the cheese back in the bottom half of its casing. Place the cheese in its casing on a baking sheet, and bake ½ hour, or until the rind looks puffy and dry. (If your Camembert does not come in a wood or cardboard casing, place the parchment-surrounded wheel in a small oven-safe baking dish, ideally 4-5 inches in size.)
Serve immediately with bread, vegetables, or your choice of accompaniments.
(Note: Once the cheese has been baked, it will become dense and impossible to spread. The flavor’s still good though, so I use any leftovers in other recipes that call for cheese or cube them and sprinkle them on soups and salads.)