Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping

Since it would be sacrilegious to omit pumpkin pie and pecan pie from a dessert buffet at Thanksgiving their places of honor were reserved on ours.  But Thanksgiving is such an opportunistic time to try new desserts.  There is so much to do with pumpkin!  I tried three new recipes this year and the one I’m sharing with you today is a Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping.

This recipe hails from Gourmet magazine.  Date unknown.  It's a gastronomic shame that this great food magazine met it's demise two years ago.  I started reading Gourmet when I was in junior high school during the late 1960’s.  Gourmet was not simply my introduction to food from all over the world but the food journalists transported me to all of those remote places as well.

I have always gravitated to authors whose writings center around food.  One of my favorite food writers is Ruth Reichl.  She was the last Editor in Chief of Gourmet  when the magazine shut down in November of 2009.   I highly recommend any of her books.  Okay, on to the recipe.

Although the recipe has 3 different stages, it is really a simple recipe to make.

First you’ll make the crust with finely ground graham cracker crumbs, pecans, brown sugar, granualted sugar and butter.

I recommend boxed Keebler graham cracker crumbs.  I’ve tried processing my own from whole graham crackers and it just does not come out for me.  The recipe also calls for finely chopped pecans.  I ground mine in a food processor to the same fineness as the crumbs.

After mixing all of the ingredients for the crust press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the springform pan and up the sides about ½ inch (good time for those kitchen gloves!).  Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.  I did mine the night before which is a nice do-ahead feature of this recipe.

This is also a good time to remind you to read a recipe completely through several times and several days prior to making it for the first time.  You might find yourself in a pickle if you did not allow at least an hour for your crust to get very cold or a day to allow the finished cheesecake to rest in the refrigerator overnight.

For the filling you will need these guys

The recipe calls for bourbon liqueur or bourbon.  Since I already had bourbon on hand I used that.

Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and the brown sugar. 

 In an electric mixer bowl cream the cream cheese and the granulated sugar.  Beat in the cream, cornstarch, vanilla and the bourbon.  Add the pumpkin mixture   

Beat until the filling is smooth.

Pour the filling into your chilled crust and bake in a 350° F. oven for 50 to 55 minutes.
While the filling is baking, mix up your topping.
This is a simple and quick with only three ingredients.

Whisk together the sour cream, sugar and bourbon.  Set aside until you are ready for it.
I think I hear the timer announcing the filling is done!  Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes or more (but don’t take an hour long nap).  I think I let mine rest for not much more than the recommended 5 minutes.  Also, don't turn the oven off; you'll be sticking the cheesecake back in shortly.

With your offset spatula spread the sour cream mixture over the top of the cheesecake.  Bake for 5 minutes more.

Let cheesecake cool on a wire rack.   When it is completely cool, top with the pecan halves and give it a fine dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.  Cover lightly and refrigerate overnight.

Not the prettiest photo of this cheesecake.  Time got away from me and I failed to take a photo of it when it was removed from it's pan and placed on it's pretty pedestal.    This picture was taken when I was putting it up for the evening.  The pumpkin filling was very creamy yet firm and the topping added a little zing to it.  I liked this cheesecake a lot.  Family members who tried it liked it too but not many are cheesecake eaters.  I took the rest of it to work on Monday and it was gobbled up.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping
Will serve 10-12

For the Crust:
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Mise en Place:
butter a 9-inch springform pan
melt butter in microwave and set aside to cool
finely chop the pecans in a food processor until they have the same consistency as your graham cracker crumbs
Measure out the sugars and graham cracker crumbs

In a bowl combine the crumbs, the pecans, and the sugars; stir in the butter and press the mixture into the bottom and ½ inch up the side of a buttered 9-inch springform pan.  Chill the crust for at least an hour (overnight even better)

For the Filling:
1-1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 - 8 ounce packages cream cheese, cut into bits and softened
½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp bourbon or bourbon liqueur

Mise en Place:
cut cream cheese into cubes and allow to soften
measure out all the other ingredients

In a bowl whisk together the pumpkin, the eggs, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the ginger, the salt, and the brown sugar.  Beat in the cream, the cornstarch, the vanilla, the bourbon, and the pumpkin mixture, and beat the filling until it is smooth.

Pour the filling into the crust, bake the cheesecake in the middle of a preheated 350°F oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the center is just set.  Remove from oven and let it cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes.

For the Topping:
2 cups sour cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp bourbon or bourbon liqueur

16 toasted pecan halves for garnish

Mise en Place:
measure out all ingredients into your mixing bowl

In a mixing bowl, whisk  together all of your ingredients.  Spread the sour cream mixture over the top of the cheesecake and bake the cheesecake for 5 minutes more.  Let the cheesecake cool in the pan on a rack.  Place the pecan halves around the edge in a geometrical pattern and grate a dusting of fresh nutmeg over the top.  Cover loosely and chill overnight. 

Remove the side of the pan and place cheesecake on a serving plate.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Leslie’s Favorite Chicken-And-Wild Rice Casserole

This recipe is out of an issue of Southern Living; date unknown.  It was submitted by  Leslie Flemister from Dunwoody, Georgia.

 C. selected this clipping for our dinner this evening.  Since it’s just the two of us, I halved the recipe and it halved very well.  Leslie notes that the recipe freezes well; up to 1 month. Although I halved the recipe, I have given you the recipe below for the whole recipe that yields 6 to 8 servings.

Here are the cast of characters for today’s clipping.  Milk, sour cream, water chestnuts, onion, cheddar cheese, cooked chicken, celery, wild rice mix,  & mushroom soup.

Begin by melting some butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Sauté the onion, celery and water chestnuts.

Stir in the rice (as well as the seasoning packet), the chicken & part of the cheese.
I’d like to add a note about the chicken here.  The recipe calls for 5 cups of chopped cooked chicken.  You can do this a couple of ways.  If you are in need of some good broth to freeze you can boil your own chicken (don’t forget to add all of those flavorful additions like celery, carrots, onion and a little garlic).  Or, you can do what I chose to do today and that was to buy a plain roasted chicken from the neighborhood store’s deli department.
I boned the chicken and shredded the meat.  It easily yielded the 5 cups that the recipe calls for.  I can’t emphasize enough here how fabulous it is to wear food gloves to bone the chicken.  Once you are through and toss the gloves your hands are so nice and clean.  There is nothing nastier than greasy, poultry fat hands.

Add the soup mixture and stir to combine.

Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased casserole dish.  You can top it with the breadcrumbs if you like; I elected to leave them off.

Bake for 30 minutes then top with the rest of the cheese and bake for 5 more minutes.

It proved to be a tasty dinner.  It produced a creamy texture with a pleasant crunchiness from the water chestnuts.   This casserole pairs nicely with a crisp dinner salad and a chilled Pinot Grigio.  That’s all you need for this easy dinner.  We enjoyed it very much.  Thank you Leslie!

Leslie’s Favorite Chicken-and-Wild Rice Casserole
Yields 6 to 8 servings; Prep: 30 minutes; Bake:  35 minutes


2 (6.2 ounce) packages fast-cooking long-grain & wild rice mix
¼ C. butter or margarine
2 medium onions, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 (8 ounce) cans sliced water chestnuts, drained
5 cups chopped cooked chicken
4 cups (1 pound) shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided
2 (10-3/4 ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
2 (8 ounce) containers sour cream
1 cup milk
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ cup soft breadcrumbs (optional)

Mise en place:

·         chop onions and celery
·         drain water chestnuts
·         shred or chop chicken
·         shred cheese and divide
·         whisk together the soup, sour cream, milk, salt & pepper


·   Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion, celery, and water chestnuts.  Sauté 10 minutes or until tender.
·   Stir in rice, season packet, chicken, & 3 cups of the cheese.  Gently mix.  Add soup mixture and gently mix.
·   Pour into a lightly greased 15 x 10 inch baking dish or a 4-quart casserole.  Top with breadcrumbs, if desired.
·   Bake casserole at 350° for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese, and bake 5 more minutes.

NOTE:  Casserole may be frozen up to 1 month.  Let stand at room temperature 1 hour.  Bake, covered at 350° for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake 55 more minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese, and bake 5 more minutes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Homemade Celery Salt

It's very hard for me to waste anything.  I made some celery salt last weekend.

I started with a bunch of celery that had a lot of the green leaves on it.

After cleaning all of the stalks, I tore off all of the greenery.  I love all the different shades of the celery leaves; dark greens, light green and yellows.

Then I dried it.  I placed the leaves on a cooling rack and let them sit for several days.  You can dry them in the oven as well but I wasn't in any hurry.

Once the leaves were all dried and shriveled up I crumbled them between my fingers.  You should also notice a really nice celery smell as you are crumbling them up.  They won't turn to powder but will crumble into nice little pieces.  Make sure that any leaves that aren't totally dry get tossed out.
Once the leaves were crumbled I measured to see how much I had.  This batch came out to about 1/4 cup.  I mixed the leaves with the same amount of salt. 

I chose this salt.

 I liked the sizes of the granules.  You can also throw your mixture into a small food processor or a coffee grinder that you use for herbs and get the celery tops a little smaller.

Then I tossed it all in a mason jar, ready for use!!