Sometimes you say no, and sometimes you say yes.
When Ile de France contacted me with an offer to send over one their cheeses to sample, I hesitated. I generally don't like exchanging samples for blog posts, because I don't like being obligated to write about something I might not be excited about. But then I thought about it again—hey, it's cheese! What's not to be excited about?
So when the wheel of Camembert arrived in the mail, I went off in search of a good way to use it. There were chicken breasts in the freezer, and onions on my counter; a batch of bread dough nestled at the bottom of a mixing bowl in my fridge. Once I spotted this post, I had my plan: I would bake a stuffed bread.
After dicing and caramelizing two large onions, I poached three chicken breasts, which yielded about a pound of moist, flavorful cooked meat (I used this method, but omitted the ginger and sherry because I didn't have any). I had about four ounces of turkey ham in the fridge, too, so I diced that up too. For the Camembert, I simply cut the entire wheel into slices after taking off the rind.
I had originally envisioned one loaf, but I soon realized I had enough ingredients for two—even after nearly eight months of living alone, I haven't broken the habit of cooking in mass quantity! To assemble each one, I rolled out the dough on a floured cutting board, trying to achieve an even thickness. I arranged half the chicken, half the turkey ham, and half the caramelized onions down the middle, and then layered half the cheese slices on top. Because the dough was so sticky, my first attempt at braiding the dough pretty much failed miserably, so for the second one I just ended up pressing the ends together on top to seal the dough around the filling. An egg wash would have made them prettier, but I went only with a sprinkle of grated smoked Swiss cheese, and after moving the loaves to a greased cookie sheet and letting the dough rest for ten minutes, I put them both in the oven at 400 degrees for half an hour.*
The resulting loaves came out just as I'd hoped: crusty, chewy bread with a center of chicken pieces, sweet caramelized onion, and salty, smoky bits of turkey ham, all bound by the rich, earthy-tasting Camembert. Not exactly light fare, but utterly comforting and delicious.
I think this recipe is quite flexible, too. You can substitute homemade or store-bought pizza dough instead, or any kind of bread dough really. Roasted chicken instead of poached; a different kind of ham, or bacon; a different type of cheese. Even the caramelized onions can be swapped out for something else—I've been thinking that the cranberry chutney I've got in my fridge might work pretty nicely. Next time!
Camembert, Chicken, and Caramelized Onion Loaf
Makes two large loaves
Bread dough, divided into two portions (I used half the yield from this dough recipe)
16 ounces poached chicken breasts (about 3 medium sized breasts), cut or torn into chunks
4 ounces turkey ham, diced
8 ounces caramelized onions (from about two large onions)
1 wheel Ile de France Camembert (7.7 ounces), sliced into pieces
Egg wash (optional)
1 ounce shredded smoked Swiss cheese (optional)
On a floured cutting board, roll out one bread dough portion into a 9x12 rectangle about one centimeter thick.
Layer half the cheese slices down the middle, and then layer half the chicken, half the turkey ham, and half the caramelized onions on top. Lift the sides of the bread dough up to close over the filling and press the ends together to seal—there shouldn't be any holes in the dough. Transfer to a greased baking sheet, flipping the loaf so that it rests seam-side down on the sheet.
Repeat with other bread dough portion and remaining ingredients. Let assembled loaves rest for ten or fifteen minutes.
Brush loaves with egg wash and/or sprinkle with shredded cheese, and bake in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.*
*Originally I had written that these loaves should be baked at 350 degrees for half an hour. But I recently learned that my oven has been running 150 degrees too hot—which means that while I had my knob at 300 degrees while baking these loaves (to compensate for my oven running what I thought was 50 degrees hot), they were actually baking at about 450 degrees. And though these breads miraculously came out okay, I did have to rescue them a little early to prevent them from burning. I'm going to say 400 degrees, for half an hour, is the best bet for this recipe.