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.

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

Reuben Dip in a Bread Bowl

I am adjusting this recipe to fit with the things that work with the “Best Reuben Sandwich” from America’s Test Kitchen. Like making your own “dressing” which includes the mayo, sour cream, and chili sauce. Also using Boar’s Head sauerkraut and draining some sweet relish – though I will not go so far as to chop up my own sweet gerkins. Makes no sense. D&D_1861

I had to order the bread bowl from the Publix a day ahead of time, so consider that in your planning. I think a Rye boule would work equally well if you are so inclined.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup chili sauce
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup drained sauerkraut -Boar’s Head
3 tablespoons sweet relish, drained very well
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup diced cooked corned beef – Boar’s Head from the deli @ the Publix
salt and pepper
1 large (1#) pumpernickel boule, top sliced off and center hollowed out

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, chili sauce, cream cheese, sauerkraut, and relish into a large mixing bowl and stir together until completely combined. Fold in cheeses and corned beef until fully combined. Season with salt and pepper and stir together. Scoop mixture and place into the hollowed bread bowl and place onto a baking sheet.

Place dip in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until dip is hot and baked through. Serve immediately with bread bowl by making slices of the bread into the dip – really good. Yep.

Source: Spoon Fork Bacon with some America’s Test Kitchen influence.

15 April 2017 – For Easter this year. Used my super amazing tomato knife* to slice through the bread to make bites and it worked really well.

* Victorinox 125th anniversary limited edition 4 1/2″ tomato knife. Sharpest damn thing ever – mind your fingers. So not kidding.

Mini Cheese Ball Bites

So this was a new appetizer for Thanksgiving  but for me it plays into my holiday thing. Holidays call for cheese balls – yes, they do, because I used to make a cheese ball when I was all of 12 years-old for our Christmas smorgasbord – my name for our Christmas Eve feast thing. I have tried to advance my cheese ball experience to go way beyond my immature 12 year-old self. I mean dried beef was involved.* Ugh.  But now that I think about it – what would it be like to try that recipe several decades later? Would it be good or would the food snob in me completely revolt. I am not sure and little scared to try to be honest. I still have that recipe, so who knows what might happen.

This recipe has lots of my favorite flavors: bleu cheese, cranberries, pecans. Those flavors are holidays to me. Especially with our local pecans, just harvested this fall – they are so sweet and totally set off the saltiness of the bleu cheese. Also, I am hard pressed to ever turn down a dried cranberry. [See: Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies]dd_1693

I do love that the base of this can be made ahead – the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry part. Then the day of, make the mini cheese bites, roll in top quality local pecans and add that little pretzel skewer. Excellent. This will also make this recipe in a regular sized cheese ball to go with bread or crackers. May have to do this for the next pot luck at work. We shall see.

8 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
4 ozs bleu cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely minced
1 1/2 cup pecans, minced
pretzel sticks

In a bowl, mix together bleu cheese and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in cranberries. Refrigerate until firm. Using a spoon, scoop into tablespoon sized balls. Refrigerate again until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pecan pieces in oven for 7 – 10 minutes, until fragrant. Allow pecans to cool. Roll chilled cheese balls in pecans. Keep balls refrigerated.

Just before serving, skewer each cheese ball with a pretzel stick. 

Do Ahead: Make the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry mixture and cover, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, toast the pecans, roll the cheese balls in them, and add the pretzel sticks.

* Here it is for posterity’s sake.

8 ozs  cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, room temperature
3 Tbs well-drained horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped dried beef

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, horseradish until well blended. Make into a ball and chill. Roll in dried beef until covered. Chill several hours. Let sit at room temperature before serving. Serve with Triscuits or whatever crackers you like, but when I was 12, Triscuits is what I did. And everyone else did too.

2016 – A Year Ago – Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

We have a relatively new Christmas Eve tradition.  Christmas Eve fondue night. It makes a lot of sense to me – an easy, quick dinner that’s best with friends. With fresh bread, apples, grapes, and cheddar fondue, I was looking for something a little savory to go with it that would bring a different flavors. This recipe has the benefit of being able to make it ahead of time and bake when your ready. dd_1702

1 16 oz package bacon, cut into thirds
1 8 oz package pitted dates
4 ozs cheese – bleu, goat, Brie – whatever sounds good, yes Brie that is what we did
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp chili powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and arrange wire baking rack on top. Spray lightly with cooking spray.

Stuff each date with cheese and wrap with bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place on rack, seam side down. Stir together brown sugar and chili powder and sprinkle mixture over dates.

Bake 20 – 25 minutes until bacon is crisp. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Because if you do not wait it will be very bad (serious burns).

I love any dried fruit wrapped in bacon. Or pretty much anything with bacon (See: baked beans). I was really pleased with this recipe and plan to make it again since the container of dates I bought had enough to do the recipe again.

And believe it or not, if you let the left overs sit out and get to room temperature, they are not shabby like that either. Yes, I did do that. I’m that person.

2016 – A Year Ago – Lime Sugar Cookies

 

Bacon-wrapped Dried Fruit

D&D_1189I have made this play on the dried fruit wrapped in bacon thing once before, but I have no notes on it. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. I usually make comments if something is good or something bites. So I’m trying this again in a bit if faith that I can make it work. The flavored sounded great to me especially if I add my spin to stuff the dried fruit with some Bleu cheese which is always a good thing, in my opinion.

Cooking spray
12 Turkish-style Apricots, or Pitted Prunes
6 sliced bacon
Some kind of cheese to stuff in the fruit

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and then add a baking rack on top. Spray baking rack with cooking spray.

Cut each slice of bacon in half cross-wise, about 4 inches long. Use a sharp knife, slit fruit down the middle, but not all the way through. Stuff with whatever cheese (and or nuts) you would like. Make sure you close it up. Then wrap with bacon. Secure with a toothpick and place on the rack seam side down and bake for 10 minutes. Turn with tongs and bake 10 minutes more. Rest for few minutes – really hot dried fruit can burn you – it’s the sugar.

Serve with lime wedges. Oh, yep, I’m so doing that. Citrus makes everything better.

Super Bowl 50

Source: Mollie Katzen – Get Cooking 2009 – great cookbook to get you started in the kitchen. My first experience with Mollie Katzen is probably the same as everyone else. Moosewood Cookbook, I’ve had this book for years – my edition is the 15th anniversary version from 1992 which if I do the math correctly means the book is 39 years old.

Notes: the Bleu cheese leaked out a bit which was unfortunate.  I did get them ready and refrigerate because I worried about that, but it was still a problem. 20 minutes did the bacon perfectly. The ones where the cheese stayed in were awesome, the others were good too, but in general I was a bit bummed about it. Need to figure out how fix it.

I will do this again to be sure. Just need to sort out the minor issue.

Sun-dried tomato pesto palmier

Palmier – Also called palm leaves, this crispy delicacy is puff pastry dough that is sprinkled with granulated sugar, folded and rolled several times, then cut into thin strips. After baking, these golden brown, caramelized pastries are served with coffee or tea or as a dessert accompaniment. Food Lover’s Companion, p. 437.

Well, this is not a sweet palmier, not by any stretch of the imagination, although I would like to make a sweet version one day. I saw Ina Garten make a version of this and decided I would use my sun-dried tomato pesto in her methodology.

D&D_1130

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Palmiers

1/4 cup walnuts, pulverized in the food processor
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, not oil packed, but hydrated it some hot water
1 bunch basil, washed, dried, and torn roughly
about 1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed in the fridge*
1 egg, mixed with a Tbs of water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Whir up walnuts in food processor. You could use pine nuts, but walnuts make an excellent pesto, in my opinion.  Add sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and pulse a few times. Add basil and Parmesan and pulse to combine all ingredients. Add the olive oil until the paste is smooth. Set aside. Or refrigerate until ready to bake, just remove in time to make sure this will be room temperature before spreading on pastry.

Unfold puff pastry sheet on a slightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin to roll the pastry 13 x 13 inch square. Using a small offset spatula, spread the pesto to the edges. Fold the sides of the dough on two side to half way to the center, the fold again so both sides meet in the middle. Finally, fold one half over the other. But don’t press them together too much.

Slice the dough into 3/8 inch and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash. Bake for 6 minutes, then turn the palmier over and rotate the baking sheet and bake 5 more minutes. Rest on a paper towel and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes: After doing this the first time, I don’t think I will roll the puff pastry quite that thin. I think a 12 x 12 inch square will work. I also think the pesto really needs to be much thiner so the rolls have more space to puff up. Maybe I was a bit gun-shy about adding too much olive oil. Probably.

Of course, I love my sun-dried tomato pesto, but I always do. I cannot believe I have yet to post my sun-dried tomato pesto torte  – it is highly requested and I often make them for friends just to have at home for dinner – yes, dinner, and that works for me. Put it on the list.

These tasted pretty good, but I was not happy with the puff pastry. Need to figure out what I should do differently. That said, there was left over pesto that I plan to put on pasta with lots of olive oil.

*I left the puff pastry in the fridge for a couple of days, and to be honest, it was the easiest time I have ever had with puff pastry (Not sure why, but wow – it made me feel like pro for some reason), though I did put it back in the fridge after rolling it out and before putting the pesto on.