New to brie [moved from Home Cooking]
I have never worked with brie, but have seen many great ideas and would like to try some this coming holiday season.
How do you choose good brie?
Do you eat the outer rind?
Whats the best way to introduce this to people who have never had it?
A good brie is delicious. When choosing a brie, you must consider both the quality and the maturity or readiness of the cheese. If you are new to the cheese, finding a good specialty cheese store in your area and relying on the seller is probably your best bet, as it takes awhile to learn when a brie is ready, or more importantly, how to buy it so that it will be ready the day you want to serve it.
IMO you definitely eat the rind, it has always been part of the cheese for me - but this is a subjective thing, so I don't think there is really a right answer. Some people don't like the taste of it.
Brie is fantastic just as is with baguette or perhaps nice crackers if you like. If you are preparing it for people who have never had it, you might try making it en croute, which is to wrap it in dough and bake it. You can serve this with a fruit coulis underneath or just on its own. Very good for a festive presentation, but I prefer eating it as it comes.
Brie is an easy cheese for most people to like. To up the acceptance factor you might select one that has some ingrediant added like pesto. Whole Foods makes an excellent cranberry brie this time of year.
However, the suggestion to find a good cheese shop ... especially one that gives tastes is the best idea.
As to the rind, for me it depends. For a young brie where the rind is white, I'll eat it. For an older brie where the rind is starting to brown, I find it usually too strong and just eat the interiorm, usually spread on a baguette.
There are quality differences in Brie.
To learn about it, do as TarteTatin suggests and go to a good specialty cheese shop when they're not busy. The vendor can explain how to tell a quality brie and the stages of ripeness. He'll let you taste it and you can judge for yourself what you prefer and also have a standard against which you can measure.
If you are going to use brie for baking or recipes in which you'll be mixing things with it, you can probably use standard supermarket brie which is of lesser quality. This is what's generally used for "novelty" bries, such as with pesto or fruit. Most of this grade is sold far too firm and unripe, virtually tasteless.
If you're going to be eating brie plain or serving it to people who appreciate fine cheese, you'll want to buy the higher quality at the proper stage of ripeness which is usually quite soft, almost runny. This would be too soft to use for baking.
I eat the rind because I like the contrast in texture between the runny cheese and the firm rind. I even like it as it gets older but then I like strong cheeses.
Look for Brie de Meaux. It's a DOC cheese from France made with raw milk and has a flavor the pasteurized milk Bries can only dream of. It's sold at small shops who take the risk of having the cheese police seize it for being a raw milk, non-aged cheese. Once you taste this, nothing else will do.
If you do find it, sniff it for any signs of ammonia which indicate that it's overripe. Because it's raw milk and young, it has to be eaten very fresh.
re: Karl S
We've had this discussion before. Yes it is illegal. But there are some places that manage to get it. In the Boston area Formaggio's and Russo both carry it. Brie de Meaux is always made with raw milk and always sold young (less than 60 days). If it weren't it would lose its AOC label and could not be called Brie de Meaux.