Baked Camembert with Oven-Crisped Fries

A classic appetizer, but this would also be a fabulous and unexpected dinner party menu. Some really good cold ham, piles of good-quality mini gherkins, a crisp bitter salad and lots of cold Champagne…

Quantity-wise, one 4″ wheel will do for six as an appetizer. As a main, it will feed two generously.

Ingredients

For the cheese

1 round of camembert or brie

1 clove garlic

Sprig of rosemary

1 tbsp white wine

1 tsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the fries

1 large potato, per person

Vegetable oil

Salt

Method:

To make the fries, peel the potatoes and cut into french-fry sized pieces about the width of your pinky finger or slightly bigger. (Bearing in mind the potato will shrink slightly when cooking.) Try to get the fries all relatively the same thickness, but don’t get out a measuring tape or anything.

Place the cut fries in a pot of cold water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and fill the pot back up with cold water. Salt the water well, and bring the fries to a boil. Once boiling, boil for about 1 minute only. Drain the fries and gently shake them out onto clean tea towels to dry completely.

Tip: Drying the fries out on tea towels is a really important step. It ensures you get super-crispy fries, and it’s also much safer. Wet steamy fries will splutter like hell when you transfer them to the hot baking tray.

Preheat the oven to 425F / 210C.

You want the fries to sit in an uncrowded single layer, so you may need two baking trays.

To each baking tray, add 1 – 2 tbsp vegetable oil and place in the oven to get hot.

When hot, carefully (but quickly) transfer the fries to the tray, shake out to a single layer and sprinkle generously with salt. Give the fries a good toss around and place in the oven to bake.

From here, you simply need to keep an eye on them. Turn the potatoes every 10 – 15 minutes, taking care to flip the fries over so they brown evenly. Move the browner fries from the outside into the middle, and vis versa. It takes a bit of patience, but it’s totally worth it.

After 45 – 60 minutes you will have some beautiful, crisp and golden fries. Serve immediately.

Meanwhile…

For the cheese, slice the very top off a round of camembert. It’s ok if some of the rind is left, you just want to expose the cheese without losing too much. Place the cheese either in a brie-baker or in the cardboard box it comes in. (I’d put some tin foil around the cardboard box, just in case of leakages.) Slice a garlic clove into thin slices and poke into the cheese at random points. Follow with tiny sprigs of rosemary. Slosh over the white wine and olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pop the lid on top.

If baking the cheese in the same oven as the fries, after the fries have started getting golden you can afford to turn the oven down a bit. Bake the cheese at 375F / 190C for 30 minutes or until it’s bubbling and smells incredible. Serve immediately, reminding people it is very hot!

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