Sunday, February 19, 2012

New York Cheesecake with Cherry Topping

Oh, President’s Day. A weekend when you get one more Monday off before the long stretch to Memorial Day and a weekend when you can buy any mattress for 50% off.

I’m not sure there are many President’s Day weekend traditions (except for the aforementioned mattress day sale at your local department store) but every President’s Day Weekend for as long as I can remember my mom has made a Cherry Pie. It wasn’t until recently that I put two and two together and realized she probably does this because of that George-Washington-and-the-Cherry-Tree story and not because she is a few days late celebrating Valentine’s Day.

I’m not usually a pie person. I think it is because a pie is so portion controlled. With ice cream, you can easily scoop an extra spoonful out. And with cake, it is quite easy (and rational) to trim the edges of your cake from where you just made a slice so it is even and then, subsequently eat the trimmings you just removed. With pie – if you even attempt to even anything out, it involves a knife and a spoon and by the time you are trying to keep the filling from continuously oozing out by scooping it onto your plate, someone has discovered you hovering over the pie plate with cherry filling smeared across your face. And then someone gets the next slice which has a third of the amount of filling as you have in your slice. And, as we learned from George Washington, you have to fess up because one cannot tell a lie.

Now that I have you all ready for a pie recipe -- I’m actually going to give you a Cheesecake Recipe but with a delicious, homemade cherry topping! How many of you just use cherry pie filling to top your cheesecakes? I am not going to lie (George Washington!), I have done it before too. Although the cheesecake may seem slightly labor-intensive, the cherry topping is about as easy as it gets. Happy President’s Day!

PS - This week two years ago I devoted my blog ramblings towards the more focused topic of cooking and baking. For two years I have enjoyed sharing my musings and food explorations with family and friends. I appreciate every click and comment and Facebook Like I can get. Knowing that folks enjoy my writing and my cooking is what keeps me posting.

New York Cheesecake with Cherry Topping
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the Crust
8 ounces finely ground graham crackers (Smitten Kitchen literally gives you the number of sheets you need and I just smashed them with my rolling pin because I didn’t want to haul my food processor down from overhead storage)
1 stick butter, melted
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt

Stir together crust ingredients and press into the bottom and sides of a buttered springform pan until you have about one inch left open at the top of the pan. Pop it in the freezer while you assemble the filling.

For the Cheesecake
5 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened (I knew when I saw five packages that this cheesecake was no joke)
1 ¾ cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 550 degrees (as someone who is terrified of my gas oven, it took me ten minutes to work up the courage to even turn the oven up this high). Beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour and zests together with an electric mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, then eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated. Make sure you periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl so all the ingredients are well-incorporated.

Place the springform pan in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake it in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes or until puffed. (I think I should’ve turned mine down a little once the cake started turning brown on the top. Apparently, this is perfectly ok to do so will do that next time.) Reduce the temperature to 200 degrees and continue baking about one hour more or until cake is mostly firm but the center still jiggles slightly.

Run a knife around the top edge of the cake to loosen it and cool it completely in springform pan on a rack. Loosely cover it, and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Once chilled, remove the sides of pan before serving (obvi.).

For the cherry topping
10 ounces sweet or sour cherries (frozen is fine)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
½ cup water

Place all ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, cook it for an additional one to two minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely before serving (even though it will be tempting to just throw it on a slice immediately).

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Chili Blanco

Any good football on this weekend? Just kidding! Happy Super Bowl Weekend! Even though I am a resident New Yorker now, I am still pulling for the Patriots with, what I feel, are fairly legitimate reasons.

Reason #1 - Robbie's family is a staunch Washington Redskins family so I feel like I would be breaking their hearts if I pulled for the Giants.

Reason #2 - I want to be that person at the Super Bowl Party who pulls for the team everyone else is pulling against which is bound to happen when the hometown team is playing. I think that will make for a more exciting time.

Reason #3 - Tom Brady.

Oh and, Gisele - If you are reading this, I did receive your email this week and have been praying for a safe and successful Super Bowl for (y)our man.
So if you are looking for some yummy, Super Bowl chili, I recommend this recipe. First of all, it's a white chili so right off the bat you are not declaring allegiances to either team and therefore not taking my approach of being that guest at the party. Also, it lends itself to something heartier without being too heavy like those of the red variety can sometimes be. And who doesn't love a topping bar? Sour cream, chips, cheese, peppers . . . the options are endless.

So sit back, enjoy the game (or the commercials if that's your preference) and warm up to some good chili. Because, let's be honest, the number of times you crave chili is about to drastically drop until Fall rolls around again and football is back on your brain.

Chili Blanco
Adapted from (see, it's healthy too!)

2 chipotle peppers from a can that have been marinated in adobo sauce (usually in the aisle with the Latin food)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 Rotisserie chicken meat, shredded
1/2 pound fresh, white mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
15 oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. can of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cup canned chicken broth
A squirt of fresh lime juice

Heat the oil in a nonstick Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is softened. Add the chicken, mushrooms, cumin, and coriander and cook until the mushrooms begin to soften (about 4 minutes). Add the beans, broth and chiles. Cover and cook until flavors are blended, about 8 minutes. Uncover, reduce the heat, and cook until thickened, about 7 minutes longer. Stir in the lime juice.

You won't have as much broth as you may expect from a chili - it's definitely more heavy on the solid ingredients than liquid ones but I found that it still made me feel like I was eating a bowl of chili due to the flavor.