Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake

Pumpkin pie made rich and smooth as a cheesecake with a gingersnap crust on the bottom and crunchy pecan praline on top. Better give this a try now so you can give it a good solid taste test and decide how many of these you're going to need for Thanksgiving. Two? Three? Whether or not you like pumpkin pie, this is in another category altogether; prepare to love it.  And now let's prepare to make it!

Yep it takes a lot of stuff. So worth it. All I'm gonna say.  
Set the oven to 325 and spray a 9" springform pan. Crust comes first so it can bake while we work on the filling. The crust is 1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs and 1 cup Ginger Snap Crumbs. I made them in the food processor, buzzing them around until they were nice and finely ground. To these, add 1 tsp of Cinnamon. Stir thoroughly with a fork to blend well.
Now add 3 Tbs Melted Butter and stir it in with the fork until all is damp. Finally, spread into the pan and firmly press about 2-3" up the sides. If you have a perfectly straight-sided glass it will make the job really easy. Bake for 8 minutes and set aside on a rack to cool. Leave the oven on!
Now, for the filling. Yummmmmm. This is a deep cheesecake so don't be shocked that it takes 2 lbs. of cream cheese. And if you want that filling to be as smooth and creamy as possible without any unblended flecks of cheese, then be sure it's not just room temp but a little warmer than that. Just put all four blocks of cream cheese on a plate and microwave for a full minute and test then maybe another full minute until they're slumping in a bit and soft. Beat this for a few minutes on medium until very smooth before adding the 1-1/2 cups sugar as it continues to mix. Next add 3 Tbs Bourbon and 2 tsp Vanilla. Next the can of Pumpkin (NOT pie filling). Beat in 4 eggs, one at a time. Last of all add the following dry ingredients and beat in well.
In a separate cup, add 1 tsp Ginger and 1-1/2 tsps Cinnamon to 3 Tbs Flour. I use the tiny whisk to give it a quick blend before adding to the mixer bowl. When the filling is completely mixed, carefully pour it into the crust, which is a little delicate even though already baked. Now this is going to baked in a larger pan of water to keep the cracks at bay. We want plenty of moisture in the oven during baking, but we don't want a soggy cheesecake, so layer 3 sheets of aluminum foil under that pan and firmly fold up around the sides to make a protective cake-sock to foil the seeping waterbath. How'd you like that descriptive sentence? Here's a picture to go with your mental image:

The water should come about 1-2" up the sides of the pan. Without the water this cake will crack all the way through in several places. Still tastes good but texture and appearance suffer. Ok, give it a bake, still at 325. It's going to be a long one so don't go off and forget it completely. Set the timer for 1 hr and 45 min. It will be set and ready although not much darker than it is in this picture above.Once again, leave the oven ON. We still have a topping to make. But you're almost home free; it only takes 12 min or so. 
Melt 3 Tbs of butter over med heat and add 1/2 cup packed brown sugar. Stir steadily as the sugar melts into the butter. When you begin to see bubbles forming STEP OFF. Don't touch it until it has bubbled briskly for 1 full minute. You can go line a cookie pan with foil while you're doing the countdown. Now you can step back in and cut the heat. Drop in 3/4 cup of Pecans (I like to use salted and roasted pecans) and stir to coat then quickly pour onto the foil lined pan and spread out with a spatula. To become crunchy praline it takes the second heat of the 325 oven. 
This part goes quickly so start checking in about 5 minutes. You want to see it bubbling all over and then you can grab it out. It may take 7 or 8 minutes, just watch it! And check it with your nose. If it begins to smell the slightest bit pungent instead of toasty fragrant then take it out of the oven right away even if you don't see bubbles. When it cools break into pieces and arrange artfully, or by the handful, on top of your lovely cake. Soooo much better than pumpkin pie.
1 cup Ginger Snaps Crumbs
1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
3/4 C Pecans
1/2 C Brown Sugar
7 Tbs Butter (almost a stick)
4 Pkgs Cream Cheese (8 oz each)
15 oz Can Solid Pack Pumpkin
4 Eggs
1-1/2 C Sugar
3 Tbs Flour
3 Tbs Bourbon
2 Tsp Vanilla

It's FallFest at the Food Network website and you'll find me there from now till December! Every week we'll be sharing great recipes for fall and early winter vegetables. For now, check out these other mouth-watering recipes for Pumpkin:

What's Gaby Cooking: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars
The Cultural Dish: Pumpkin Waffles
Cooking With Elise: Pumpkin Chip Scones
And Love It Too: Creamy Pumpkin Fruit Dip
CIA Dropout: Pumpkin Panna Cotta With Gingerbread
Haute Apple Pie Girls: Pumpkin Bread Parfait
I Am Mommy: Pumpkin Pancakes
Dishin and Dishes: Maple Pumpkin Creme Brulee
Virtually Homemade: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins With Pumpkin Seed Streusel
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Pumpkin Pizza
Daydreamer Desserts: Pumpkin Fattigman
From My Corner of Saratoga: Baking Pie In The Pumpkin
FN Dish: The Ultimate Pumpkin Soup
Cooking Channel: Pumpkin Risotto
The Sensitive Epicure: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies With Molasses Marshmallows
ZaikaZabardast: Pumpkin Jalebi
Mooshu Jenne: Pumpkin Nutella Bread
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Loaf

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Creamy Loaded Potato Casserole

What happens if you layer all the elements of a loaded baked potato, and then some, and bake it up in a nice deep dish? It turns out better than the loaded potato and that is putting it mildly. And what if I tell you it’s a Paul Deen recipe, well then I won’t have to give you the butter warning now will I? Now that Ree Drummond is ranching it up on the Food Network I’m going to just quit apologizing for butter altogether, because she is giving Paula a run for her money in that department and if two of the best cooks in the food galaxy are doing it then I can too. SO. Get out your butter and start your engines.

We’re going to take off with 3-4 tablespoons of that butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and as soon as it starts to foam drop in 1 sweet white onion, julienned. That’s just cut in half and sliced thin. Also add about ½ a good sized red bell pepper, or yellow like this one if you don’t have red, also sliced very thin. While that is sauté-ing along until soft and translucent, peel 3 medium sized Idaho potatoes and slice ¼” thick, rinse well and move them to a glass pie pan or other dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave 3-5 minutes or until they just become tender enough to slip a knife into them easily. If they go any longer they’ll fall apart when you move them over to top the casserole. 

The bottom layer of the dish is mashed potatoes which you can certainly do yourself, but I cheated and used a good brand of ready to serve real mashed potatoes, about 2 cups worth. First rub the dish with broken garlic clove half to get just enough of that good garlicky flavor all around and follow that with a rub down of butter, no apologies. So, the first layer is mashed potato followed by 1 cup of sour cream.  

Salt and pepper it before adding the onion and red pepper and really spatula out that pan for every drop of the oniony flavored butter too. 

Next sprinkle on a cup of grated cheddar, preferably Sharp.  

Last two layers will be the sliced potatoes (more salt and pepper) and another cup of grated cheddar. Voila. That means you’re done put it in the oven. 350 for 30-40 or until the cheese is bubbly and just browning up a little.  

 Now one last thing: while that’s cooking fix 6 slices of bacon to crumble on top when it comes out of the oven. You know how I love a shortcut, as long as it doesn’t cut on flavor, so microwaved bacon is my standby and I start with the partially cooked kind already. Not a fan of the bacon fat pools from the real kind unless it’s necessary, as in Candied Bacon, when the real thing is every bit worth fooling with.

So, here’s the real Voila. Dish it up by digging all the way through to the bottom so each bite has a mix of creamy mashed and cheesy bite sized potato and a salty crunch of bacon. 

½ lb Bacon (6 slices)
8 oz Sour Cream
1 Med Sweet Onion
1 Small Red Bell Pepper
5 Tbs Butter
2 cups Sharp Cheddar
2 cups Mashed Potatoes
3-4 Medium Idaho Potatoes
1 garlic clove

It's FallFest at the Food Network website and you'll find me there for the next twelve weeks! Every week we'll be sharing great recipes for fall and early winter vegetables. Check out these other mouth-watering recipes for Potatoes:

Taste With The Eyes: Poached Salmon, Lobster Mash, Lentil Gumbo “Gravy”
And Love It Too: Twice Baked Potato - Paleo Style
What's Gaby Cooking: Smashed Potatoes
From My Corner of Saratoga: Potato Canapes
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Chorizo and Potato Tacos
Cooking Channel: Cozy Up With In Season Potatoes
FN Dish: Best Potato Casserole Recipes
Cooking With Elise: The Irish Boxty
CIA Dropout: Potato and Leek Soup
The Sensitive Epicure: Potatoes Anna With Fresh Thyme and Truffle Salt
Glory Foods: Chicken Smashed Potatoes

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apple, Bacon, Feta Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Printable Recipe
Crunchy bacon and smoked almonds contrast the sweet apples and salty feta in this salad dressed with a surprisingly light maple vinaigrette. There are no greens, only apples, but there's really nothing stopping you if you'd like to bring some light lettuces into the mix. I'm living without them in this recipe and sticking with apples as the star of the show. Honeycrisp, Fugi, or Gala apples are perfect for this slightly sweet, salty, smoky,  fall salad. I used just two large apples, peeled, quartered, and cored. Slice them about 1/4" thick and then halve that again for hearty bite size pieces. I made quick work of that part with my ancient version of a mandoline (Ronco) slicer-dicer first and then roughly cut in half crossways with a chef knife to make them a good size bite. To keep the apples from darkening I dunked them in water with a squeeze of lemon while I measured up the rest of the salad and made the vinaigrette.

1/3 Cup Canola or Peanut Oil 
3 Tbs Maple Syrup
3 Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
This is actually a very mild vinaigrette and will be more than enough for this salad, possibly even enough to use twice. Be sure to use a mild flavored oil, not olive oil which conflicts with the other ingredients. It's not often I forgo olive oil but this is one time that it does make a difference to use something else.

Now, for the rest: 
1 cup Feta (Mt Vikos is the best!)
1/2 cup smoked almonds chopped in half
1/3 cup crumbled bacon (about 6 slices)
Dry the apple slices and combine with above in a roomy bowl so you can toss it well with some of the dressing and give it a taste. The dressing should just enhance the other flavors, not overwhelm them or end up being the predominant taste. *A note about the cheese - all feta is not created equal. It can be powerfully salty and even stinky and I don't mean that in a good way. Steer clear of American made feta (sorry America, leave this one to other countries who do it better). My favorite of the many, many brands I've tried is Mt Vikos (Greek). It's not as salty or strong yet still has a distinctive flavor that doesn't rely on that pungent salt. If you can't find Mt. Vikos, start with less than the full cup of feta and do a taste test before adding the rest. Let the apples shine most!


It's FallFest at the Food Network website and you'll find me there for the next twelve weeks! Every week we'll be sharing great recipes for fall and early winter vegetables. Next week be Spinach and I have a quick easy way to make spinach that even kids will eat. In the mean time, check out these other mouth-watering recipes for Apples:

CIA Dropout: Apple-Roasted Duck
Cooking Channel: Add Apples to Your Salad
The Cultural Dish: Apple Cider Martini
And Love It Too: Fried Apples (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free and Vegan)
From My Corner of Saratoga: Easy Skillet Apple Pie (A Southern Living Recipe Reviewed)
Haute Apple Pie: Baked Apple Pancake
Virtually Vegan Mama: Slow Cooker Apple Date Butter
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Apple Pancakes
What's Gaby Cooking: Apple Cake
FN Dish: Savory Apple Recipes
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Apple and Caramelized Onion Soup
The Sensitive Epicure: Pan Fried Apple Rings (Gluten-Free)
Glory Foods: Caramel Apple Upside Down Cupcakes
Dishin & Dishes: Old Fashioned Apple Crisp
Cooking With Elise: Wholegrain Apple Oat Pancakes
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