Savory Ham & Swiss Cheesecake

The MotH has a problem with me calling this a cheesecake because that just makes everyone thing dessert and I do, really, get that. But when you preface the name with savory, I hope people can somehow make the transition.D&D_2297

Definition of a cheesecake – having a firm custard-like texture, with cream cheese, cottage cheese, or both. Well, that fits.

But when get right down to it – this has an almost (almost) obscene amount of cream cheese and eggs which is what most cheesecakes do.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups oyster crackers
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
7 large eggs
2 cups grated Swiss cheese (about 8 ounces) + some
1 cup 1/2-inch cubes ham + some
3 minced scallions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F. Brush 9 inch diameter springform pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Finely grind oyster crackers in the food processor. Mix cracker crumbs, Parmesan and 5 tablespoons melted butter in food processor to blend. Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture for topping; press remainder onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

D&D_2336In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup crumbs over. Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until filling no longer moves in center when pan is gently shaken, about 2 hours. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead: can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving. We are going to stretch this for a day for Thanksgiving, but I am pretty confident in it (see hurricane story below).

I made this the first time in 2004. It was really good. Not sure what the occasion was and we went to the MotH’s parents’ house just around the corner*, but here is the key point: We all liked it and – just to bury the lede – it was a great leftover after Hurricane Ivan took us out mostly. No, really. Just keep the fridge closed and things can stay safely in there for a day or so. This really worked, and to be honest, you do not want any kind of warm food right after a hurricane – um, ever. That is why Mandarin oranges are my go to food after a hurricane. Even at room temperature, they just rock.

That said, I have not made this since 2004 – likely out of an odd sense of “perhaps this is not a good idea,” but I am totally feeling out of hurricane season at this point. Thankfully, we dodged a big bullet in Irma, and Nate was just annoying, but no really biggie.

Source: Bon Appetit ? – will find out.
Sept 2004 – Leftover for Ivan
November 2017 for Thanksgiving

2 day method – crust mixture one day, cream cheese mixture next, assemble third and bake, serve at room temperature the next day.

Very good, yes, if I do say so myself, but my unsuspecting family testers said so. But both the MotH and is brother approved of my suggestion of serving with hot sauce – brand: Crystal.
Why Crystal? – heat, but also flavor and it does not completely blow your palate like Tabasco – which I also like, in certain applications, but not this one. The Boy has other opinions on hot sauce that usually include habaneros.

Crust is really crumbly on sides – and totally messy the entire time I was dealing with. Maybe just do bottom crust and topping – needs work, but the flavor is really good – just reduce the amount by probably half (?).

Next time with minced fresh jalapeño (The Boy) – another thought or a little pepper jelly would not go amiss at this point. Oh, pepper jelly on the top as a thin layer?? Maybe going too far afield. Nope, I don’t think so.

Or with pan-roasted mushrooms and spinach (or cress) as long as all the liquid is cooked out of both in a ruthless sort of manner. Little Dijon swirled in?
This could be a great Easter appetizer too.

Okay – and the work hack version with the cranberry horseradish relish was a revelation. Not a bad thing at all. Another really good option for some spice with this cheesecake.

D&D_1418_iPhoneAnd what to do with the rest of the oyster crackers – must be something, right?

*Might sound like a nightmare to some, but my in-laws are just the best. I love them dearly – always will. The Boy and I are very fortunate.

Cranberry Relish

I really feel like I have been making this for 20-something years, and when I get right down to – that’s not too far off the mark. Yikes. How old am I? Well the other option is not being older (ie: dead), so I will take what I can get. More Cranberry Relish for me and my friends. And not being dead …D&D_2286

I grew up with the cranberry sauce in a can – with the funny little ridges. And do not get me wrong, I loved that stuff. No, really loved it, but this recipe was just such a lucky, fortunate fluke – sometimes you just have to take the wins where you can get them.

So many people think, ugh – horseradish, but honestly. Give it a go – even if you only do a half recipe while the fresh cranberries are on sale (at the Publix). You might just find a new favorite.

Other advantages – keeps well in the fridge for months; is excellent with other roasted meats, esp. chicken and pork; and amazingly good on the obligatory leftover turkey sandwich on white bread with bleu cheese dressing (miss you, Walt). Oh, and good on a cheese plate as well – sweet and sour with a little heat from the horseradish. I have a friend that I make this for that uses it on a peanut butter and “jelly” sandwich. O…kay. I will never do that but I am glad he does and enjoys it. To each his own.

How do I explain the cloves? This recipe is the only reason I buy ground cloves.
Definition – “the dried flower bud of a tropical tree, Syzygium aromaticum, of the myrtle family.” Means nothing, thank you dictionary.com. Oh, and “Food Lover’s Companion,” my go to food bible – again – thanks for nothing. Just spend the money and get the tiny jar of ground cloves. It is kind of like allspice in way – hard to explain, complex, but in this case, very necessary.

2 packages (6 cups) fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/3 cup prepared horseradish, just drain it a bit
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Rinse cranberries, removing any that seem suspect. Combine sugar and orange juice in a large saucepan. Heat on medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and mix until the cranberries start to burst. Simmer for a bit. Let cool completely. Mix in the horseradish and the cloves. Refrigerate.  This will keep for months. And that is an excellent thing. Because you never know when you are going to need it. Yes, need it.

Always check the horseradish and cloves before making. Usually, this is when I buy horseradish and cloves for the year. Cloves keep a little better, but you might need to add more than usual, but I have learned my lesson with the horseradish. Unless you have access to a horseradish root (lucky devil), get the freshest prepared horseradish you can – if it somewhere close to local – all the better. This is the time of year, I use horseradish a lot.

11 November 2017 – appetizer potluck at work for sweet potato ham biscuits

D&D_136318 November 2017 – gifts – Sandy, Traci, Joyce, Doug, Tony. Elaine, Josh … etc.

20 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

Cranberries on sale – at the Publix right now – 2 packages for $3. Excellent. I will just keep making this for the next month for sure. There is never enough cranberry relish and never enough friends to share it with.

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Me taking pictures again. Not horrible, but not great either. Rhino in the bkgd.

Source: Since 1998 or so – Southern Living, I think, or maybe not. Who knows at this point, and does it really matter if you’ve been doing it for almost twenty years?

Roast Beef with red wine pan sauce

I love roast beef, but I just do not make it often – and here is the why of the story. My mom’s roast beef was, in a word, heavenly. So much so that it was my brother’s birthday request meal – roast beef, rice & gravy and carrot & raisin salad. But I do not a have a recipe from her for it – a recurring theme here, as is very apparent. The one thing I do remember was that you put the roast into a very hot oven, guessing 450 degrees, and let the exterior crust sear to the point where, as my mom so delicately put it – the smoke alarm in the kitchen goes off. Not kidding – part of the instructions. Love it. Right? D&D_2271

All this, and I am never quite sure what kind of roast to purchase. But I happened upon this recipe and the Publix had a roast for sale that fit the bill. It was a 2 pound little guy and was just a bit over $8 at the sale price – sold! The recipe was not quite a gravy liked I am used to, but I never turn down a pan sauce with wine in it either (big surprise, I know), so there we are.

2 pound sirloin tip roast
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs cold water
1 Tbs unsalted butter, or more.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Salt and pepper, and let beef sit at room temperature for one hour. Pat beef dry with paper towels and place in a oven-safe skillet. Place in preheated oven for 10 minutes then reduce temperature to 275 degrees and roast until desired done-ness. For a two pound roast = 1 and 3/4 hours for medium-rare, or up to two hours for medium-well, but who wants that? Blech. Nobody.

Remove roast from oven and set aside, tent with foil to rest. Leave pan drippings in the skillet and taste – this is key if you are like me and always salt a roast before it hits the heat. Heat skillet over medium heat and add wine to deglaze. Add broth and simmer to reduce by half. Whisk together corn starch and water, add to sauce and simmer to thicken. Remove from heat, add butter, taste again and adjust seasonings.

19 November 2017 – Tramotina 12″ skillet – Burnt my damn hand – idiot.

Modified from Closet Cooking (Thanks again Kevin!) – The Perfect Roast Beef  Kevin’s post includes different roasts that will work for the recipe and cooking times based on weight. Glad Kevin did the work so I do not have to. Ugh Math, or something like it.

Had some issues with the cornstarch and water mixture – it just lumped up. Had to sieve it out of the pan sauce. Need to sort this out because I know my mom used the same technique to make gravy for roast beast – figure out the chemistry of cornstarch. Lord, now we have science too. Yikes, this might just be beyond me.

Thermapen – to determine interior temperature –  a very very good investment. Love this thing!

Love twisty top wine – Australia Shiraz and the Boy finished what was left. Kind of the same way he finishes milk when I am done with it for whatever recipe I purchased it for. It was a lovely Shiraz if I do say so myself.  I know everyone says this, but do not cook with a wine that you will not drink. It is a maxim that holds true.

Next time, I think crimini mushrooms will be involved – lots of them and maybe a few onions as well. Nothing ever goes wrong when you pan roast mushrooms and onions.

Hummus Wrap

I just can not bring myself to purchase hummus. No matter what – I think it because I am too cheap. It is just so damn easy to make hummus at home and no what any banana-pants cookbook or chef says – canned garbanzo beans are really just fine. Buy the Publix brand and just make your life so much simpler.

Again, this is a recipe from my vegetarian 1990s and I still make it all the time. The thing about this recipe is balance. I think even the banana-pants (read: fancy) chefs would agree to that.

Hummus ~
2 lemons, zested & juiced
2 cloves of garlic
1-15 ozs. can garbanzo beans
1 Tbs tahini or there abouts
kosher salt
water
olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, whirl up the garlic cloves until minced. Rinse the garbanzo beans in a colander, getting rid of the canning liquid* and add to food processor. Pulse a couple of times. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and pulse again. Add tahini and adjust the thickness of the hummus with a little water if necessary. Then add a little bit of really good olive oil**, because it is just a lovely thing. Taste as you go along.

Then here is the important part: Put the hummus in the fridge. Yes, this takes advanced planning, but you need to make your hummus a day ahead at the least. Let the flavors mix and then let the hummus sit out and try again – cold hummus will tell you nothing. No cold food ever tastes at its best unless it is, maybe, ice cream, but I am not even sure about that. Does it need more lemon, more salt, some sumac, a little freshly ground black pepper? Or is it just spiffy the way it is?

The Rest of the Stuff ~
Sun-dried tomato tortilla, warmed
Red onion, sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil, soft, but keep them red, splash of vinegar – red wine, or course
Crimini mushrooms, sautéed until juices are dry and well salted and peppered
Spinach (from the salad bar at the Publix)#

So this turned into more of a project than I expected, but the outcome was just lovely. I made the hummus, onions, and, mushrooms ahead of time and they hung out in the fridge for a couple of days. Did keep munching on those onions though – they were really good. Kind of pickled onions that were just a little soft.

Take a warm tortilla and spread with homemade hummus down the middle. Add the red onions and mushrooms down the middle. Top with spinach. Then do your best to roll the tortilla. I am not good at this – at all, but it worked well enough that I will get better over time. I’m sure (nope).

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Next time: feta, sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, but well-drained), artichoke hearts, roasted asparagus, hearts of palm. All these are just questions really. I could just go on and on. I really think these will make great lunch hacks, but I must pack all the items in small containers and keep them separate until it is time for lunch. Read: need new “tupperware” containers and lots of them. And I must toast or heat the tortilla  – that seems to be necessary.

November 2017 – Idea for the wrap from Ree Drummond.

*Know this is a controversial thing, but we’ll get there. I just do not like the taste. Sorry, vegan Aquafaba. Eeww.

**California Olive Ranch – Everyday. I can now get this at my Publix – very happy!

#When you only need a little greens for a sandwich or two, the salad bar can be a very good thing. If I am making a couple of spinach quiches – then I buy bags, but otherwise the salad bar is your friend.

2YA – Cheddar Pecan Crisps

Roast Beef Sandwiches with Horseradish-Cream & Romaine

Another recipe I have not made in ages, but have made a lot (see below) and my notes made me realize that the Boy enjoyed it. I wanted a little something different for Thanksgiving appetizer this year – beside my very traditional (though lovely) sweet potato biscuits with ham, horseradish, and cranberry. Side: just fixed an atrocious sentence – this is why you re-read to edit. D&D_2309

1 loaf Italian bread, sliced
3/4 pound thinly sliced rare-ish roast beast
Romaine lettuce
1/2 cup sour cream
Horseradish to taste
Zest and juice of one lemon – very important
Kosher salt / Freshly-ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment. Toast bread on one side for three minutes and the other side for four. Remove from oven and cut each slice of bread in half. The bread should still be soft-ish but have a bit of crunch to it as well.

So the horseradish cream is a play-it-by-ear kind of thing. You could use Duke’s mayonnaise instead of sour cream, but I prefer sour cream – little smoother. Mix in how ever much horseradish you like and taste as you go. The lemon zest and juice are a requirement – it makes the biggest difference. Then season well with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. This is really the part that makes the sandwich work.

Then, just assemble. 1/2 slice of bread, horseradish cream, roast beef, crunchy romaine leaves, and the other 1/2 slice of bread. That’s it – kind of dead simple when you get right down to it. This is something that really needs to be made just an hour or so before you are going to eat it. The bread needs that slight crunch. Can’t have the horseradish cream making the bread soft and the romaine needs to be super crunchy – which is why you rinse it in super cold water – oh, and I always remove the stem – hate those things. Ugh.

24 December 2004
24 December 2006
24 December 2008 – The Boy’s request and he made them
25 April 2009 – The Boy’s 16th birthday
10 May 2009 – Mom’s Day at W&J’s
23 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

*Needs a better name

Sweet Potato Pecan Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting 

So what do you do when you have extra roasted sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving? Make anything that sounds good then feed the rest of the sweet potatoes to the dog. At least that is what we do at our house. Who knew dogs liked sweet potatoes? The things you learn. This is half the original recipe and makes 12 cupcakes.

D&D_23201 cup roughly chopped pecans – oops, forgot
1 cup sugar
8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

Frosting:
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
8 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
juice of half a large lemon

2 tsp lemon juice powder
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted**

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans/walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 8 – 10 minutes until fragrant.

Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, Grate nutmeg over the top of the mixture and whisk together.

Beat together sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

Whisk together sweet potatoes, orange juice, and vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sweet potato mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until just blended; fold in pecans (again – oops).

Line cups of muffin pans with foil liners and spray with vegetable spray. Spoon batter into cups filling 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 28 – 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove immediately from pans and cool for 1 hour until completely cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon juice powder  – taste and adjust. Once smooth, sift in powdered sugar (sifting keeps the frosting smooth). Frost cupcakes and top with chopped pecans if desired.

22 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

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Need cupcake carrier – this is just sad. 

New recipe

Okay without nuts, but would be better with – pecans or walnuts

Good without frosting too, we’ll just call it breakfast, yep. Not sure, but I think it is the orange juice that makes it. Will certainly be making these again. Think they will go over well at the office.

We’re going to have a TV Party tonight. All Right! Or, oops, a Pumpkin Party. Same thing, maybe?

Oh, dear, lord where did TV Party come back from? Black Flag – Henry Rollins – Repo Man. Such an odd thing – yes, odd but funny and strange in the same way the film Raising Arizona is.

D&D_2167Well, every year I go to Scott Novota’s pumpkin party – Strong Street Studio. Just one of those things I save my little money for and then spend ridiculous amounts to purchase two or three blown glass pumpkins. This year for two really beautiful pumpkins I spent $129.00. But this is only my “stupid” waste of my money. I am not a clothes shopper, I do like shoes, but I am just not a shopper – I put it off as long as frigging possible. Right now, I need new jeans, new Keds, and a few lot more long-sleeved shirts, but it is such a chore.  The MotH should be grateful, really. So I do not feel too bad for spending dumb amounts of money on glass pumpkins.

Can’t help myself, but I have this thing for individually blown glass pumpkins. It is because the MotH surprised me for my birthday not long after we moved to Pensacola with a glass blowing weekend class. I have been, for a very long time, a potter – through high schools (every year) and in community college, and then in a community center. Pottery and glass blowing seemed so similar to me, but they are very different, and at the same time a little similar too.

I guess after the glass blowing weekend you realize how difficult it is – especially if you are a female because arm strength is a big part of this job – same for throwing on a wheel, but glass is way heavier than clay. I can attest to that. And dear lord, the rod you have to put the molten glass is not light weight either. Out of my depth.

So I have an appreciation for Strong Street Studio – I would like to apprentice there – much as I would like to apprentice at Au Peche Mignon. I wonder am I too old to do either – and that depresses me greatly. Slightly opposite apprenticeships if you think about it.

My collection – so far. And this. The rest are here.

But this is, by far, my favorite. It just looks so wickedly evil. Never seen one that was its equal. dd_img_0850-edit