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Whipped Brie de Meaux with Tellicherry pepper and fig compote

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

Note: The whipped Brie is adapted from a recipe in "The French Laundry Cookbook" by Thomas Keller. Brie de Meaux, which is creamier and nuttier than regular Brie, is available at Bristol Farms markets, the Beverly Hills Cheese Store, Say Cheese in Los Angeles, and the Cheesestore of Silverlake.

1 cup quartered fresh Black Mission figs (about 5 figs)

1/4 cup Port wine

12 ounces chilled Brie de Meaux

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground

Tellicherry pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

18 thin slices baguette, cut on the bias

Fleur de sel

1. Put the figs and wine in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer, stirring constantly, until most of the Port has reduced, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.

2. Remove the rind from the Brie; you should have about 8 ounces left. Put the cold cheese into a mixer with a paddle attachment and beat at medium speed, scraping down the sides from time to time, for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is very white and creamy. Beat in the pepper.

3. Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Drizzle about one-eighth teaspoon of balsamic vinegar over each slice of baguette in a thin line, brush lightly with oil on both sides and cook each side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Brown the bread in batches. Remove from the heat and reserve. (The bread can be stored in a plastic bag or container until needed.)

4. For each serving put a crouton on the plate, then angle a quenelle of Brie over the crouton. Top with a second crouton and another quenelle of Brie, then another crouton. Place about a tablespoon of the fig compote and a sprinkle of fleur de sel next to the stack and serve immediately. Repeat for six plates total.

Each serving: 375 calories; 15 grams protein; 25 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 23 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 57 mg. cholesterol; 532 mg. sodium.

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