Cheese Whiz


Many women in the Sacramento region know Mary Ashuckian: As the helpfulfitness expert and manager of Sutter PregnaGym, she has guided expectant mothers through their exercise routines before and after birth for the past 20 years. However, in other circles she is known for her fine culinary skills and penchant for entertaining large groups.

I love to cook, says Ashuckian, and I create or seek out easy recipes like this brie appetizer because it looks impressive and it tastes delicious. If you’re pressed for time, it can be prepared up to two days in advance and baked right before the party.

Ashuckian lives with her husband, Dave, and their two children in Carmichael, and their open-house parties for friends and family often resemble an open farm. The family’s pets goats, chickens, rabbits, sheep, cats, potbellied pigs, a dog and, most recently, a rescued Amazon parrot are like a mini-petting zoo that captivates younger guests while their parents relax.

I always entertain with families in mind, says Ashuckian. And I’ve found this appetizer is popular among both children and adults.

Baked Brie en Crote

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan. Add the onions and saut until caramelized. Set aside to cool.

Place 4 sheets of phyllo dough on a baking sheet. Place the bottom half of the brie, cut side up, in the center of the phyllo dough. Top the cheese with the caramelized onions, chutney and chopped almonds. Cover with the remaining brie half, cut side down. Fold the sheets of dough over the brie and seal by brushing with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, approximately 20 minutes. Serve warm with baguette slices or crackers. Serves 8/10.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 medium red onions, thinly sliced
4 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed and covered with a damp towel to prevent drying

1 chilled 14- to 17-ounce wheel brie cheese, cut in half horizontally
1/2 cup purchased chutney (mango, peach or apricot)
1/4 cup dry-roasted almonds, roughly chopped