Sunday, November 17, 2019

Cheesecake!


It's time for sumpin' sweet.

Youngest Hawthorne has a friend who supplies us with all sorts of seafood (and now deer!) and I supply him with cheesecake.  He's even said that I make "the best cheesecake" he's ever had.  Now, I don't know about that, but I do know I make a good cheesecake.  (Thinking about it, I don't believe I've ever had a "bad" cheesecake.)   But this guy likes my cheesecakes and I will happily keep him in cheesecake heaven.

Today, I made two cheesecakes.  One big cake for the fish guy (Tuna!!!!) and one smaller cake for the Hawthornes.  And no, I didn't get a picture of the whole cake because the first one was immediately whisked away to its destination and the second one was promptly pounced upon by hungry monkeys.  All I got was pics of the slices and that will have to suffice.

 
 Before I give you the recipes (Yes -2 recipes - one for the 9-inch springform pan and one for the 7-inch pan.), Imonna 'splain you some stuff about makin' cheesecakes.

The main ingredient is, of course, cream cheese.  I use both full-fat and light cream cheeses (whichever I have and sometimes both) and either way, my cheesecakes come out just fine.  As for the extra dairy you add in, you can be ... creative.  I use what I have on hand.  In this case, I had sour cream and ricotta.  Cottage cheese would have worked.  Same goes for mascarpone, but I don't know too many people who have extra mascarpone sitting around in the fridges.  Eggs are involved too and I generally use the one-egg-per-cup-of-dairy ingredient rule of thumb with sometimes an extra thrown in for good measure.  As for flavorings, lemon juice/zest and vanilla do it for me.  When baking the cheesecake, I always use a bain-Marie.  That means a water bath.  (And, no, I don't know who Marie was.  I can only hope a downstairs scullery maid who was getting it on with the pastry chef.)  I wrap my filled springform pans in heavy duty foil, then place them in a larger pan into which I pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan.  And then bake.  The bain-Marie is commonly used for custards, creating a gentle, uniform heat around the cheesecake, allowing it to cook slowly and evenly, resulting in a creamy custard with no dry edges and preventing curdling, crusting, and cracking.

For my crust, I always use a combination of ginger snaps and graham crackers.  And since I was giving away one of the cheesecakes, I used parchment paper in each springform pan.  The paper went on the bottom of my pan with excess extending out when I latched the collar around the bottom. Then I pressed in the crust and poured in the filling and baked.  This way, after the cheesecake cools in the pan, you can simply unlatch the collar and slide the entire cake off the bottom piece and nothing sticks and your cake is intact.

Always peek through the oven window and check on over-browning.  If the top seems too brown, simply cover with foil and continue cooking until cheesecake is set.

After the cheesecake cools, I like to drizzle on toppings - chocolate and caramel work for me.


 Cheesecake #1  (9-inch springform pan)

Heat oven to 325°.

Crust:
1 pkg. graham crackers
24 ginger snaps
3 TB brown sugar
6 TB unsalted butter, melted
Process crackers, cookies, and sugar until even crumble.  Pour in butter and process until combined.  Press into bottom and up sides of parchment paper bottom-lined 9-inch springform pan.

Filling:
 3 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened (I used one full fat cream cheese and 2 light cream cheese)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup ricotta
1 cup sugar
juice one lemon
1 TB vanilla
4 eggs
Process cream cheese until smooth, then add in sour cream and ricotta, processing until well-combined.  Slowly process in sugar, then lemon juice, vanilla, and eggs, one at a time.

Wrap springform pan in heavy duty foil wrap and place in a larger pan.
Pour in filling.
Pour boiling water halfway up sides.
Bake at 325° - about 70-75 minutes. 
After 30 minutes, I rotated the pan.
Also, after 30 minutes, I sprinkled a streusel topping over the cheese cake.
Bake until lightly browned on top and cake still has a slight jiggle.

Let cool completely before unlatching the springform pan.

Drizzle with whatever toppings you'd like.  Recipes follow for both chocolate and caramel sauces.

Refrigerate.

For streusel topping:
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch kosher salt
Mix all together until evenly combined.  If you wanted, you could add a couple tablespoons of oatmeal and maybe a 1/4 cup of crushed pecans.  It's all good!

 
 Cheesecake #2  (7-inch springform pan)

Crust:
1/2 pkg. graham crackers
12 ginger snaps
2 TB brown sugar
1/2 stick butter, melted
Mix well.  Press into bottom and sides of springform pan.  (I used parchment paper on bottom for easy removal.)

Filling:
2 pkgs. cream cheese
1/4 cup ricotta
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 TB vanilla
3 eggs
Combine as in above recipe.
Pour into prepared pan.
Wrap pan in foil.  Place in bain Marie
Bake at 325° about 70 minutes, rotating halfway through.
Let cool in pan.

 When cheesecakes have cooled completely, unlatch springform pan and remove.
Drizzle chocolate and/or caramel over top and sides.

 Chocolate Sauce
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 TB corn syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tsp vanilla
pinch kosher salt
Place first 5 ingredients in small saucepan over low heat.  Melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, and bring to simmer.  Add in vanilla and salt.  Remove from heat.  Let cool a bit, then drizzle over cheesecake.  (Rosie Note:  Any kind of milk will work here.  I never have whole milk on hand, but always have cream and skim, so that's what I always use - the combination.)

Caramel Sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp vanilla
pinch kosher salt
Combine first three ingredients over low heat, stirring to melt butter and dissolve sugar.  Simmer about 4 minutes.  Stir in vanilla and salt.
Remove from heat and let cool a bit before drizzling over cheesecake.





Enjoy!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Rosie Makes Corn And Shrimp Soup.

It's cold outside,
so it's officially time for soup.
Corn and shrimp soup for the record.

I'll give you my recipe first,
then show you the step-by-steps.

Rosie's Corn And Shrimp Soup
4 ears of corn, shucked, kernels cut off, and cobs reserved
8 oz. shrimp, shelled and de-tracted, shells reserved  (That black line down the back is the digestive tract, not a vein, so de-tract, not de-vein, your shrimp.)
6 cups water
5 fresh bay leaves (I have a bay tree, so I always have fresh leaves.  Dried leaves are stronger, so if you're using dried, only use 2.  And if you want any baby bays, just let me know.)
1 TB peppercorns

3 TB unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
1 cayenne pepper, minced
3 TB flour

1/2 cup skim milk
3/4 cup heavy cream

red and yellow pepper, chopped  (Enough to sprinkle on top, for color and taste.)
fresh thyme
green onions
 kosher salt, to taste

In a medium soup pot, heat 1 TB oil over medium high heat.  Sauté shrimp shells, stirring for about a minute (until they turn pink), then add cobs (I had 6.  I saved 2 from a previous meal.) and cook another minute or so.  Pour in 4 cups water, bring to simmer, and reduce heat, simmering for about 30 minutes.  Strain out shells and cobs and discard any solids.  Return liquid to pan (should be about a quart) and simmer until reduced to 3 cups liquid.  (Pour into measuring cup and hang on.)

In a food processor, purée half the kernels until smooth.

In the soup pot, melt the butter until foamy and add onions, celery, and cayenne.  Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes.  Add flour and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes to cook out the raw taste.  Slowly, stir in corn and shrimp stock and let thicken.  Stir in puréed kernels, milk, and cream and heat through.  Add in shrimp and remaining kernels and let shrimp cook, about 3-4 minutes.  Season with kosher salt, to taste.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with diced red and yellow pepper, chopped green onions, and thyme leaves.  Add chopped parsley and tarragon too if you're so inclined.

Now, for the step-by-steps:
First, find you some nice ears of corn.
Shuck and remove the silk.
Save the cobs for the stock.

Slice off the kernels, saving any milk.

Bunch of ingredients...
onion
celery
red and yellow pepper
bay leaves
green onions
thyme
parsley
tarragon
cayenne pepper
peppercorns
Clean the shrimp.

Here's an overview so you can see everything.

Heat up a little oil in the pan and add the shells.
Stir and squish.
Until pinkish.


Add in the corn cobs.
I had 6 cobs.
Two were saved from a previous meal.


Add in bay leaves, peppercorns, and water.
Bring to a simmer.
Strain out the corn/shrimp stock.

Discard the solids.

I put half my kernels in a processor and...
... processed until smooth.



I finely chopped this much onion and celery.

Heated butter until foamy,
then I added the chopped up cayenne pepper, celery, and onion.

Push it around for a few minutes.


Then add the flour.
Stirring and cooking.

Slowly add in the corn/shrimp stock.
Stir it and let it thicken.


Stir in the puréed corn sludge.


And then the corn kernels go in.



Add the cream/milk.
Stir to heat through.
Kosher salt to taste.

Finally add in the shrimp.
Cook until just opaque.

And serve!
Top with green onions, red and yellow diced pepper,
some thyme, parsley, and tarragon.





Corny!
Shrimpy!
Yummy!




I had some leftover the next day.
And I added crab meat.
And crab meat works quite nicely.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Rosie Makes A Spinach Salad With A Mustard Vinaigrette.



I love a good salad.
And I like a salad with a twist - sweet and savory in this case.
This one fills the bill.
I'm using spinach, but any mixed leafy greens would work here.
I'm also using fruit - apples and grapes here - but pears would do nicely too.
I have some crumbled Cotija cheese which is like a mild feta,
but again, you can substitute here.
Try ricotta salata if you like.
And I have some candied nuts - pecans and almonds.
My mustard vinaigrette pulls it all together.
For the candied nuts:
 In a dry skillet, heat a few handfuls of nuts.
Your choice.
I'm going with pecan halves and whole almonds today.
Just toss in the skillet over medium heat until a little toasty.
When you start to smell the nuts,
remove from heat, and pour into a small, shallow baking pan.

In a small saucepan, dissolve 1 TB brown sugar, 1 TB granulated sugar,
and a pinch or two of kosher salt in 2 TB water.
Bring to a boil.
Pour over nuts, toss to coat, and spread evenly in the pan.
Bake in a 275° oven for about 10 minutes.
Let cool.
Salad ingredients:
spinach leaves, stemmed (or mixed greens)
assorted fruits, like apples and pears, sliced and tossed in a little lemon juice to keep from browning
sliced, seedless red grapes (I prefer red to green grapes.  Better flavor.)
dried cranberries or craisins
candied nuts
cotija cheese, crumbled















Mustard Vinaigrette
1 TB coarse grain, stone ground mustard (I'm liking Inglehoffer right now.)
1 TB cider vinegar
1 TB balsamic vinegar
1 TB honey
1 TB lemon juice
enough extra virgin olive oil to make 1 cup vinaigrette (about 3/4 cup)
pinch kosher salt, to taste
Combine first five ingredients, then slowly whisk in olive oil to make a nice emulsion.
Add salt, to taste.

Taste will vary greatly depending on what types balsamic vinegar and olive oil you use.  I recommend going to stores like the  Spice and Tea Exchange or Ella's Olive,
both in Scarborough Lane Shoppes in Duck, or Outer Banks Olive Oil
at MP 6 on the bypass.  You'll be able to taste test the vinegars and oils before you buy and pick out what you like.  I always keep a selection of good quality balsamic vinegars and extra virgin olive oils on hand for whatever needs I might have.  
 



Enjoy!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Tilefish And Brussels Sprouts.


 The Hawthornes were just sitting there, eating lunch, 
minding their own business,
when I announced, "Dang!  This is really good!"

 And so I stopped eating midway through my plate,
grabbed my camera,
and shot what was left
so I could blog about it and tell you how it all came to be.
Because I'm a good person.
And you're welcome.


First, the tilefish.
Mild and sweet flavor.
Firm texture.
And it lends itself to any number of preparations.
Yesterday, I dredged it through a beaten egg,
then through breadcrumbs and cornmeal
and fried the fillets in peanut oil. 
Served them with a remoulade -
mayo, stone-ground mustard, minced onion,
 sweet relish, some lemon juice, 
a drizzling of Lea & Perrins, and a few dashes of hot sauce.

Today, I'm going for something lighter.
I sprinkled some cornstarch on a plate,
along with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper,
and lightly patted the mixture onto the surface of my fillets.
Then, I heated a film of peanut oil and a little butter in my skillet
over medium-high heat and sautéed for 2 minutes on each side.
You're not cooking the fish through;
you're just lightly browning the outside.
You're going to finish it off in the oven.

While the fillets are sautéeing,
prepare your baking dish.
 Place a few pats of butter in your dish
Slice some onion and red and orange peppers
and scatter about.
  Remove fish from skillet and place in prepared dish.
Pour a little white wine in the dish.
And bake at 350° for about 18 minutes.

By the way, my fillets are about 1 inch thick. 
If yours are thinner, cut your time back.

While the fish baked,
I prepared my Brussels sprouts -
an underrated vegetable if there ever was one.

Now, if you say you "don't like Brussels sprouts,"
then chances are you're not cooking them properly.
If overcooked, they become sulfurous and unpleasant.
If undercooked, they can be bitter.
So one must find the happy medium.
I'm slicing my sprouts in halves and quarters (depending on size),
sautéing them first to give them a nice char,
then tossing them with a Caesar-type dressing,
topping them with breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan,
and finishing them off in the oven.
It works.

Prepare the sprouts:  Slice off the bottoms of each sprout, then halve the smaller ones and quarter the larger ones.  You want the slices all about the same size for uniform cooking.

Make the dressing:   My dressing is a variation of a Caesar dressing and works well with the Brussels Sprouts.  It's bold and pungent and complements the sprouts without overpowering them.
Dressing:
1 TB lemon juice
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
1 TB mayonnaise 
3-4 TB Bertolli Extra Light Olive Oil
Mix the first five ingredients until incorporated, then slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Keep whisking until you have a nice emulsion.  Always taste-test.

Rosie Notes:  You could use real anchovies instead of paste, but I like to keep the paste on hand for occasions like this - when you only need a teaspoon or so.  As for the mayonnaise, this is something I never use in my standard Caesar dressing, but I'm using it here.  The mayonnaise serves a purpose - it helps hold the emulsion.  As for the olive oil, I'm using Bertolli extra light because of its neutral taste - it doesn't compete with the other flavors in the dressing.  As for the mustard, use the real deal - Grey Poupon Dijon mustard, not the Food Lion brand.  Big difference!  Most things I'll substitute the FL brand for except for two things - the Dijon mustard and Nestle's chocolate chips.  Food Lion brands don't come close on either.

Sauté the sprouts:  In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat a tablespoon of unsalted butter and a teaspoon or so of peanut oil until the butter is foamy.  Add the Brussels sprouts halves and quarters and cook, tossing, for 5-7 minutes.  Transfer to a buttered baking dish.  Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and melt a big tablespoon of unsalted butter.  Pour in some panko unseasoned breadcrumbs (2-3 TB) and swish around for a bit, to coat and lightly toast.

Prepare the dish:  Toss the sautéed Brussels sprouts with enough of the Caesar dressing to lightly coat.  Lightly grate some Parmesan cheese over the top, evenly spread the sautéed panko over top, then give it another light grating of Parm.  Bake in a 350° oven for about 7 minutes.



Enjoy!